AT&T is building up its FirstNet network, while also rolling out 5G New Radio — both of which are part of the future of connected of healthcare. FirstNet is a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders being built and deployed through a first of its kind public-private partnership between the federal government and AT&T. 5G New Radio will deliver significantly faster and more responsive mobile broadband.

“FirstNet provides priority and preemption to leverage that particular network just like an LTE network is to AT&T consumers,” said Thyge Sullivan Knuhtsen, Managing Director, Healthcare Industry Solutions, AT&T, during his keynote at BIOMEDevice San Jose in December. “It provides a certain level of service to ensure that our emergency responders. If you are going to create medical devices that serve that cohort of individuals — anybody required to come through in an emergency response system — you’re able to leverage that FirstNet connectivity and those benefits that are only realized for those medical professionals.”

With that connectivity in mind, he said, AT&T is focused on the “living-in-place” cohort — the aging population whose health may need to be monitored. “We are doing that by lighting up houses with various devices — not only FDA Class I, II, and III, but also modules, gateways, and connected devices in order to ascertain respiratory rate, heart rate, and vital signs, as well as how much are they moving, or whether they using the restroom, the refrigerator, or taking a shower (ascertained via humidity sensors).”

“By lighting up a person’s house and relaying that information back via LTE and a cloud system, we have a real-time contextual basis on an individual. What that means for Medicare Advantage plans and ACOs,” he said, is that it provides real-time data in context as to an individual’s health at that point in time and from there make clinical decisions as to whether or not to intervene via video telehealth sessions or send a nurse out to make sure an individual is ok before they get admitted and start running up costs. Knuhtsen said that in 2020, AT&T’s initiative is “to light up as many healthcare enterprises as possible.”

For medical device manufacturers who are looking to provision devices, he said that AT&T has established a partnership with Microsoft to move cloud computing workloads from central clouds to bring those back down to a network edge within particular cities (which now includes Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta).

“By doing so, we are bringing the resources — the cloud services from Microsoft Edge or from central compute down to these network edges where you’ll be able to realize and experience some 20 milliseconds of latency. This is critical for applications that require active responses but also for heavy application — AI inferences and models to keep that simultaneously running in real time and real updates without bulky compute units that you would have in the medical devices that you want to push out to the market,” said Knuhtsen.

Sherrie Trigg

Editor and Director of Medical Content