Q&A with AT&T ForHealth CMIO Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA

Geeta Nayyar, MD, is the Chief Medical Information Officer for AT&T. As a clinician and thought leader, Nayyar guides the AT&T ForHealth portfolio strategy. Nayyar has held a diverse range of clinical and executive roles across the healthcare industry, giving her a unique perspective bridging clinical medicine, business, communications and health technology.

Recently, Nayyar sat down with HIMSSwire and offered up her opinions on the state of the industry today and how information technology is poised to help healthcare providers and consumers create a heathier tomorrow.  

HIMSSwire: What are the top challenges facing the healthcare industry?

Geeta Nayyar: It’s a familiar refrain but one that rings so true: We, like those in many other industries, are being asked to do more with less. We are being asked to take care of more patients and to get better outcomes – and to accomplish all of this while utilizing fewer resources and spending less money. That’s what’s really behind the whole push toward accountable care and the move away from fee for service.  We are also faced with responding to the demands of our patients. With access to mobile information and applications in every other aspect of their lives – from banking to grocery shopping to education- they want the same type of service in healthcare. 

HIMSSwire: What impact are these trends having on the use of information technology by healthcare organizations?

Geeta Nayyar: The information technology challenges are pretty straightforward. Providers first need to get all the data into an electronic format. This is something that the healthcare industry has been struggling with for literally decades but we are finally making some progress, thanks, in part, to incentives available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Indeed, providers need to move from paper to electronic records – that is what will provide the industry with the infrastructure that we need. 

Once the infrastructure is in place, information technology will become even more crucial. With the foundation in place, we will have all sorts of data that will need to be analyzed in a meaningful way to help improve patient care.

We will also see just how important it is to connect the dots. Currently, we have hospitals down the street from each other that don’t share information.  You could have a doctor who practices at both facilities but still can’t get access to integrated information on his or her patients.  That’s a big part of what we are doing at AT&T.  Through products such our AT&T Healthcare Community Online solution, we are making it possible to provide caregivers with access to a complete and truly integrated electronic health record for all of their patients.  And, that goes a long way when trying to make the best clinical decisions at the point of care.

HIMSSwire: How will consumers be affected as the healthcare industry continues to embrace information technology?

Geeta Nayyar: Consumers will start to truly leverage technology to take care of their health.  Already, more than 425 registered developers have created 258 next-generation applications on the AT&T mHealth Platform.  Consumers will begin to embrace these apps to more proactively take care of their health. 

However, the real power in mHealth technologies is more than just the ability to collect data, but the ability to connect it in meaningful ways. Due to interoperability barriers that exist today, healthcare companies are limited in what information they can collect, while consumers only have access to the data they store independently. At the crux of this is connectivity – and we are developing innovative ways to link the entire ecosystem of care to enable an integrated approach to healthcare.

HIMSSwire: For many years we heard about doctors’ resistance to technology – and that is what held the industry back in terms of computerization.  Do you think that is changing?

Geeta Nayyar: I don’t think doctors are resistant to technology at all.  The problem is we need to be sure the technology operates in the way we need it to work. We have to always carefully evaluate how each party – patient, physician and payer, needs the technology to work within their specific practice area. The healthcare IT industry is maturing and we are beginning to see the solutions that we need, and doctors are whole-heartedly embracing them.

HIMSSwire: What do you see as the role of AT&T as the industry continues to leverage information technology to transform healthcare?

Geeta Nayyar: We will continue to try to help patients become better stewards of their own care by providing the tools needed to access their own information and to communicate with providers.  And, we will continue to provide the tools that help providers have better access to patient data – and to share and analyze this data. At AT&T, we are focused on making it possible for consumers to better manage their care by providing real time monitoring solutions and the connectedness that makes it possible for caregivers to provide ongoing supervision. In short, we are keenly focused on using mobile technologies and smart networks to improve the quality of care, reduce costs, and contribute to a healthier world.