Technology has its eyes on the healthcare frontier. Maria Lensing, head of the Healthcare Solutions team worldwide for AT&T Business, shares what factors are driving healthcare’s digital transformation.
-By Arianna Hermosillo-
Negocios Now: What does an average week look like for you?
Maria Lensing: You have to schedule a time to think. Latinos, we work really hard, and we grew up in an environment in which our parents told us if you work hard good things will come, and it’s true, but if you don’t have time to think, you’re working hard towards what? In a regular week, I have time for strategy, escalation, customers, my team, my peers, and all the while I’m checking numbers, the operational cadence of the business and ensuring that we’re doing the right things. I have an escalation half hour blocked off every day because something is going to go wrong somewhere.
NN: How would you describe technology’s role in healthcare?
ML: It’s very simple: expanding reach. Traditionally healthcare has been [limited to] a four-wall environment. Now, we see a lot of statistics that show that people are living longer which is all good news. The more people live, the more chronic diseases start to appear. They need care, but not necessarily inside-a-hospital care. The ability to expand care to their homes is what technology is doing for healthcare.
NN: What are some barriers to technology?
ML: We are used to a consumer experience where we can easily access information like previous orders or records of things that we’ve done. Healthcare is a little behind. When you go to a new doctor or go to a new town you don’t have all of your records with you. They don’t follow you. As much as we have invested over the past 10 years to automate electronic medical records, we’re still nowhere near making those really easy to consume.
Healthcare has also always been very risk-averse and for good reason. A mistake in the healthcare space can cost someone their life. So it needs proven technology and uses cases, opportunities that are not as risky. For example the communication between nurses and doctors. Can that be a little more technologically advanced? Or maybe the processes around scheduling personnel. The obstacle is having solutions in areas that are not going to impact lives.
NN: What is trending in healthcare technology?
ML: Health solutions that you can receive somewhere else than just a brick and mortar created exclusively for healthcare services are very powerful. For example, think of a pacemaker or a heart monitor that is connected and sending data remotely. Historically, you’d have to go in once a week, and get information from the device downloaded for the doctor to review. Now, we are able to connect those devices without a lot of interference or anything that might be damaging to the body. Now the device is sending the data real time, to some kind of platform that may even be using artificial intelligence to process information and readings. The doctor sees that the baseline is being met, but the minute that the heart starts acting up there’s a notification that the doctor can pay attention to.
When it comes to AI, I see different groups trying to bring information together to understand or at least create patterns from things like the types of foods you consume, the type of genetic makeup you have, and some of the tendencies based on your cultural background, as well as the environment you live in. When you bring all those things together and get those data points to talk about how [they] affect health, we can have new solutions that can allow our communities to be healthier.
NN: What about the advent of 5G?
ML: 5G in this space is insane. Before the surgeon goes into surgery they’re taking a look at the MRIs, X-rays, CAT scans to visualize the path that they’re going to take. In an AR world, we would interpose all those images and create that path. So the visualization the surgeon is trying to double check as they go is now going to be done right in front of their eyes. Minimizing the level of error that can be introduced by that back and forth. It needs to be up and running so that you don’t lose anything in the middle of the activity whether that’s surgery or that’s how we train our doctors of the future.
Now let’s say we want to set up a clinic. There are large files that are sent between systems in healthcare. With the advent of 5G, no longer do you have to wait for a broadband connection, you can just use your 5G devices to connect. 5G is being shown to handle one GB of data traversing your mobile environment. One GB, guys. That’s huge. It’s going to revolutionize the healthcare spaces and many other spaces.
NN: How does an engineer become so passionate about healthcare?
ML: What I find is that everybody has a story behind them. I came to this country because my brother had cancer and he received the wrong treatment in my country. They saved his life in the United States. And this is well over 20 years ago. Fast forward to where I am today, to be somebody that came for medical reasons to now being able to lead the healthcare solutions team at AT&T, it’s amazing.
I believe that we can use technology to expand the reach and take the solutions, the innovations that great healthcare minds are developing today, and make them available to people all over the world, wherever they might be. Truly by doing that, we will change the face of today’s world.