Home5GAT&T’s Nadia Morris discusses barriers to cancer research

AT&T’s Nadia Morris discusses barriers to cancer research

American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network Moonshot Roundtable: Overcoming barriers to progress in cancer research

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network Moonshot Roundtable met in Austin yesterday to speak about overcoming barriers to progress in cancer research. Panel member Nadia Morris, head of innovation at the AT&T Connected Health Foundry, spoke about how AT&T is using IoT to help doctors quickly get the data they need.

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“We need to be where people are actually going to do these things [research],” Morris said. “AT&T’s play in the healthcare space is to leverage our network. We are more and more looking at sensors and the internet of things – what we are doing is building a closed-loop system to make all of this work. If we can shorten that gap from when the data is generated by patients and give it to caregiver’s hands more quickly, we’re solving the problem more rapidly.”

Morris helped open up the Health Foundry in June this year in Houston, Texas. The department operates out of a warehouse-like building where they have created simulated hospital settings and experiment with sensors. The hope is to leverage AT&T’s network to bring data from those sensors up to the cloud where analytics can be used by doctors.

“The best way to do it is for folks in their homes to leverage regular devices, using a myriad of sensors and getting it in the cloud and working on it. If you look at smart cities, so many cities are opening data because there is no harm in it. If you want to look at why lung cancer is so bad in one part of town, you can look at CO levels. And public water systems are putting sensors in there before they become national health crisis.

The new AT&T wing has just begun conversations with key stakeholders on what it is they need to find out and in what way the data can be presented to them. Unfortunately, the health care industry is behind when it comes to adopting new technologies.

“When I started working on this project I found out that health care was even slower than phone companies,” Morris said. “There are doctors who are still printing out their documents and faxing them over to other facilities.”

Another challenge technology innovators face in health care is the unwillingness of patients and practices to share their data, which could be combined to help researchers find better ways to prevent and treat cancer.

“We need to have really easy ways to not just let people share, but educating people and tell them that it’s safe that we’re going to take personal information, because your data can help cure cancer.

Sensors used to track this important must be unobtrusive so that patients do not feel that they are being invaded, according to Morris.

“At out Aging in Place Lab, what we want is unobtrusive sensors put in the home that will help monitor,” Morris said. “It has to be unobtrusive. From our user-design research what people don’t want is a camera looking at them all day, so we can use small IR sensors. Putting sensors in the fridge that find out if people are eating. Sensors in the oven to note when people left the oven on too long. One of the things that helps catch [cancer] early is rapid weight loss, so we could put a sensor in a bathmat that weighs you every time you walk on it.”

And the low-frequency side of the upcoming 5G network will help AT&T enable these sensors without overburdening their infrastructure. The projected efficiency increases using low-powered networks also means sensors have much longer battery lives.

“AT&T has done a number of trials on 5G and narrow-band IoT-type networks. It is extremely important when it comes to health stuff. What is really important is if I’m making an infusion pump and all I want to get off there is telemetry data, I want to know if pump is working properly levels are getting dispensed properly. I equate that data more like a Twitter feed, chirping a little data out every now and then.”

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