Delivering the network platform for healthcare's future

Moving computing power closer to the edge

by Kevin L. Jackson

As a young girl, Maria and her family traveled from Lima, Peru all the way to Memphis, Tennessee to get cancer treatment for her brother. The miracle she observed, as the providers saved her brother’s life, ignited a deep passion for healthcare. Maria also had a  passion for math and sciences so she studied electrical and biomedical engineering in school – eventually falling in love with networking and data. Now, Maria Lensing, Vice President of AT&T Healthcare Solutions, is in the perfect position for pursuing her dual passions of healthcare and advanced technology.

Maria’s interview with Dez Blanchfield, Chief Data Scientist, started with this story as they talked AT&T healthcare solutions just ahead of HIMSS 2019 in Orlando Florida. HIMSS 2019 is an annual convention hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Listening to Maria, her primary goal, when working with AT&T’s healthcare industry clients is helping them:

  • Deal with the growth, aggregation, consumption, and distribution of data
  • Manage devices of the Medical Internet of Things ecosystem, that use data (i.e., Fitbit, health sensors, medical instruments)
  • Self-define the healthcare provider engagement model (How do I engage my patients? How do I engage my doctors? How do I engage my payers? How do we prepare for the future?)
  • Maintain security and privacy across all of these connections.

During the engaging and far-ranging discussion, the pair talked about how healthcare spending has grown significantly in the United States. As people are living longer, we now have seniors that are suffering multiple chronic diseases: not diabetes or arthritis for instance, but diabetes and arthritis. While urban areas are working to enable telemedicine with 5G, the rural community in the US doesn’t have the same high bandwidth wireless coverage. 


As AT&T rolls out FirstNet to provide higher bandwidth wireless capabilities to first responders, it can also improve our society’s ability to deliver telehealth solutions to our rural community elders. Imagine a future where a First Responder drone, connected via high bandwidth wireless technology, could deliver a medical sensor to a distressed patient. Through that network, healthcare providers could collect and interpret critical data as the initial conversation is taking place. This scenario could deliver lifesaving care almost immediately. The intersection of technologies like 5g, IoT, smaller computer chip form factors and better batteries coming together with lower prices for connectivity could create the perfect environment for healthcare innovation. The availability of these technologies  for the delivery and consumption of healthcare services could extend into realms we've never experienced before.

AT&T Business is delivering The Network Platform for Healthcare’s Future today. Called Edge-to-Edge, by moving computing power closer to the edge,  it delivers the data needed to support the required action. Whether it involves a doctor holding a phone or a subcutaneous implant (an under the skin implant used to deliver a drug over a long period), by connecting quickly and reliably to the desired endpoint, data can be analyzed faster which leads to faster action.

SD-WAN technology plays a big role in the healthcare space, as it extends and enhances existing infrastructure. SD-WAN can also reduce the management costs and allow a business to seamlessly transition between all of those other critical technologies (i.e., MPLS, 5G, LTE, WiFi) so that the experience becomes truly mobile. By understanding this difference, the healthcare IT executive can focus on how all these technologies seamlessly transition data back and forth so that the healthcare team can deliver the best possible patient experience.

All of this change is happening in an environment where the healthcare consumer expectation is changing dramatically as well.  Today, a patient making an appointment is expected to show up at the doctor’s office at the appointed time. But, society is quickly moving past making appointments at the neighborhood health clinic for care when they feel sick.  In the future, patients will expect their wearable health monitor to collect real-time health data, use an artificial intelligence-driven assistant to diagnose an illness, and order the correct medication over the internet.