AT&T's new CMIO has connectivity on her mind

We reported a few months ago about AT&T's move to boost its clinical profile by hiring physician Geeta Nayyar as its first-ever chief medical information officer. Details about her job, her philosophy, and purpose were a little sparse at the time, but I was able to talk with Nayyar this week and get some insight into her priorities for her new position.

The big issue on Nayyar's mind these days--primed from experience helping to build an electronic medical record at George Washington University--is connectedness. One of her big priorities as CMIO is to help AT&T and its partner vendors focus on getting EMRs and other systems more able to share information, she says. Mobile technology may well be the key by making health information portable and accessible from anywhere, rather than stuck within an individual hospital networks, she says.

"I like this concept of being able to make your healthcare information much more portable," Nayyar tells FierceMobileHealthcare. "For example, being able to use an app to make doctors' appointments," just like the ones Nayyar says she uses to make restaurant reservations. "It's the concept of being able to connect mobile information in a whole new way."

AT&T just launched a new group that Nayyar says may help with that connectivity issue: The AT&T Developer Center for mHealth. Designed to help app developers determine whether their apps are useful, dovetail with clinical workflows, and are compatible across different platforms, the Center may provide a much-needed vetting service for health apps and related devices.

In particular, Nayyar says she wants the center to help developers focus on the issue of connectivity--getting their apps to talk to one another, and to other systems. Just coming back from maternity leave, she noted that she used a number of apps during her pregnancy, and for post-partum care, but most were standalone, and not connected to one another. "Wouldn't it have been cool to share all that data?" with different providers, she posits.

One interesting note: Like many physicians, Nayyar is becoming increasingly married to her own mobile devices. She carries both a smartphone and a tablet with her each day, and says she spends about 20 to 30 percent of her work day using them for education--teaching residents, looking up information, etc.--messaging and other purposes. It should be interesting to see how her in-the-field use of the technology informs the products AT&T fields in the year ahead.

Having been relatively quiet, media-wise, in her first few months on the job, Nayyar now is stepping into her more public role with AT&T. About a month ago, ForHealth vice president Randall Porter noted that part of her job would be as the public, clinical face of the company, particularly with regulators and public policy makers. Nayyar hasn't had much face time with regulators just yet, but says she has several meetings with officials from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the year ahead. We'll certainly be watching to see what fruit those efforts bear. - Sara