Verizon is the latest telecom to seek riches in mobile healthcare

Technology is increasingly mobile. Telehealth is on the cusp of a major boom. The federal government is pouring billions of dollars into health IT. Put the pieces together and it's no surprise that so many big companies see tremendous growth potential in mobile healthcare.

Even during this traditionally slow Thanksgiving week, chip-maker Intel comes out with an announcement promoting the growth its remote patient monitoring system, Intel Health Guide. And that wasn't even the biggest piece of mobile healthcare news to hit this week. No, that honor belongs to telecommunications giant Verizon Communications, which on Monday unveiled its Telehealth Collaboration Services initiative, part of a relatively new business unit called Verizon Connected Healthcare.

It's a two-pronged strategy, according to Nancy Green, Verizon's managing principal for healthcare, who spoke with FierceMobileHealthcare on Monday. The patient-centric part of the equation will focus on traditional telehealth services such as remote consultation, while other services will provide technology for continuing medical education and, increasingly, virtual encounters between management of hospitals, physician practices, laboratories and government agencies. "Verizon is moving beyond the communication side [of healthcare] to the business-process side," Green says. She envisions the latter group of applications to include research and development, grand rounds and simply multi-site business meetings.

Verizon won't divulge many details just yet, but Green promises an announcement in the first quarter of 2010 about cloud-based telehealth connectivity. The company, which is a member of the Continua Health Alliance, also is looking at home-based remote patient  monitoring, and news about so-called body-area networks is "in the works," Green says.

Earlier this year, Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and British telecom Vodafone Group, formed a wireless venture with equipment-maker Qualcomm. Brace yourselves for other announcements by major telecommunications companies. After all, there's plenty of money to be made in health IT. - Neil