Telecoms giant moves into telehealth space

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Officials at telecommunications giant AT&T have indicated the company plans to aggressively expand its operations into the remote patient monitoring market through a partnership with Valued Relationships Inc. (VRI), reports Information Week.

VRI, based in Dayton, Ohio, operates a number of remote patient monitoring centers staffed by trained nurses. The collaboration between the two companies will focus on a service aimed at patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Patients’ homes will be fitted with remote monitoring devices that will detect abnormalities in their vital signs. Data on heart rates, blood pressure and glucose levels will be sent electronically from patients to monitoring centers for analysis by nurses. Personnel will be able to assess whether an intervention is necessary based on the readouts, and detailed reports on a patient’s overall health can be compiled from the data.

“Health plans and hospitals will no longer have to actively monitor the information because VRI’s call center will monitor it for them,” Andy Schoonover, chief executive officer of VRI, told the news source. “VRI will only contact them in a case in which a clinician is needed to give the care required to keep them from being hospitalized.”

Telehealth is becoming one of the largest growth areas of healthcare IT. Earlier this year, several companies including AT&T, Cisco Systems and Polycom demonstrated new telehealth technologies at the American Telemedicine Association expo in San Jose, California.

The news source cited a report published by a subsidiary of IMS Research that suggests the global telemedicine market will be worth an estimated $1 billion by 2016. Companies such as AT&T are seeking to capitalize on the need for many hospitals to reduce expenditure related to patient readmission.