Duke and Verizon will focus on scaling up promising health IT innovations and using the network to reach a mass market.
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Duke University and Verizon announced on Wednesday that they are collaborating on healthcare IT initiatives aimed at improving patient outcomes, reducing costs, and bolstering medical research capabilities.
Under the multi-year agreement, Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions, the company's health care practice group, and Duke is combining technical resources and personnel to focus on health projects that leverage advanced communications technologies, including wireless.
The pact "will touch a variety of subinitiatives," said Sam Bastia, Verizon general manager of strategy, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.
The Duke and Verizon alliance will include technical collaboration, including indentifying and assessing healthcare technology products and services for commercial viability; business collaboration, including an internship program for Duke students to be assigned within Verizon teams for the development and implementation of business initiatives; and a scientific advisory board that includes senior representatives from both Duke and Verizon.
Among other things, the pact will help Duke researchers investigate ways of scaling up promising new health IT innovations for mass use through tapping the computing and communications infrastructure offered by Verizon, said Dr. Kevin Schulman, a Duke University professor of medicine and business administration and director of the health management sector program at Duke.
"We've been in discussions for two years," said Schulman in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "Verizon has been an infrastructure player for a long time, and health IT is a solution for getting data from point A to point B, but the network is key," he said.
"A lot of solutions and concepts need networks and mass," said Schulman. By utilizing Verizon's technology expertise and infrastructure, Duke and Verizon can work on scaling up those innovations, he said.
For instance, collaborative work will focus on emerging mobile patient engagement and telehealth applications that could allow patients and clinicians to use smartphone technology "to understand whether a patient needs to be seen," said Schulman.
Other work could involve "ubiquitous and smart medical devices and sensors" used in the home, as well as "other assets like medical pumps" that could allow patients to transmit data and communicate with remote healthcare providers.
In that work, Duke and Verizon teams will look at "how to hang things over the network to deploy tools to patients and providers and not worry about how to scale up," said Schulman.
For instance, emerging applications using smartphone technology being tested in small pilot groups by Duke can be scaled up using Verizon's technology resources for use by many more people.
Verizon's computing infrastructure can also be leveraged by Duke and other medical researchers as a powerful tool for complex medical analysis and research, Schulman said.
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