Today, there are about 17,000 mobile health, or mHealth apps. By 2015, it’s projected that there will 500 million mHealth app users worldwide.
Here in the United States, the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and development of health-information exchanges in states and regions as a result of health care reform has created networked data marts of secure patient medical information that can be accessed by providers and hospitals.
In turn, these developments have given rise to a new kind of business opportunity for major telecommunications firms. AT&T has recently launched two products – Managed Tablets and Global Smart Messaging Suite for Healthcare.
Providence Business News talked recently with Eleanor Chye, executive director of Mobile Healthcare at AT&T, asking her to define and describe the new market opportunities in health care.
PBN: How does the new managed tablet framework fit into the growing mobile health care network services market?
CHYE: We recognized that there was a significant shift occurring in tablet use in the provider space and the life sciences space. There was a need to have much more information available, and that need accelerated with tablet adoption. In response to this whole new market need, we developed our products, starting with what the industry needed to be more effective. We see [these products] as a way to add value and take the pain out of deploying mobile technology.
Looking at the market, at least 30 percent of providers already have tablets, and another 50 percent of that community will be making tablet decisions in the next three to six months. From our perspective, this is a vast opportunity.
PBN: How does the managed tablet framework integrate with provider’s existing mobile applications that may have been deployed or in the planning stages?
CHYE: We preload applications onto the tablet device before we ship it out to the providers or the clinical care person. If they have Citrix, we can load that as well. We are application agnostic regarding third-party applications. The offer is not just for AT&T applications. We look to the customer for what they want to preload.
PBN: What attracted you to the Rhode Island market? Was it the state’s reputation as an innovator in health care reform?
CHYE: I don’t know enough about Rhode Island to say what the opportunity is there. We are focused on managed tablets and secure texting, which becomes more and more important as mobile technologies are being deployed in health care. There is a need to ensure that [all information transfers] are done in a secure a manner as possible. In terms of Rhode Island’s focus on innovation or its ability to really push the needle on patient engagement or meaningful use, that’s not something I would have a perspective on.
PBN: How are you defining patient engagement?
CHYE: The ability to reach out to patients to engage them. Under the Affordable Care Act, there is an effort to expand health insurance coverage for the Medicaid population as well as the uninsured. When you look at secure texting, it is a low-cost, high-return method of engagement at the patient level.
When you look at the present Medicaid population, 70 percent are people who text. When you look at the population with two or more chronic diseases, 78 percent use their cell phone [to text].
We are really looking to employ these lower-cost messaging solutions to do outreach to these patients. Secure text messaging is an effective way of getting your message across.
PBN: What is AT&T’s vision for its mobile health care division? What do are you trying to achieve, in terms of market share?
CHYE: In late 2010, AT&T launched a new health care [division], with four components: mobility health care, cloud-based health care solutions, health care community and cloud-based health information exchange. What AT&T is trying to do is to leverage our technology and network security [know how] to develop health care solutions. We cover the waterfront where health care technologies interact with patient engagement.
When you look at chronic diseases, the change happens not at the point of care, but at the [intersection] of personal life and behaviors, when you are at home and in your own private space, and you need that coaching. Secure messaging can provide those reminders to help manage chronic conditions in order to stay well and improve patient outcomes.