AT&T’s Houston Foundry Chief Morris Talks Connecting Healthcare to Technology

Houston—Nadia Morris, the head of innovation for AT&T’s Connected Health Foundry at the Texas Medical Center, calls herself a “constant tinkerer.”

That penchant came in handy recently when her father-in-law had a few falls and was subsequently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“I cobbled together some very basic devices that they can use, built up some Raspberry pi things so we could help monitor him,” she says. “And then I realized I could not just build a couple of things that would help my in-laws; [I need to] take those ideas and work with a team of experts and bring these ideas to life.”

That’s the goal of AT&T’s Foundry program in Houston: marrying technologies like sensors, connectivity, and data analysis to healthcare. The Houston outpost is the latest in AT&T’s six-year-old network of such programs across the country.

In Houston, the Foundry consists of recreations of different healthcare scenarios within which AT&T’s expertise in mobile communications come into play: at the bedside, a nurses station, a home’s kitchen.

For example, AT&T has developed a remote patient monitoring system that works via a tablet. That’s the sort of device that someone with a chronic disease might use at home, tracking their medicine, logging in their weight, and perhaps, scheduling a video call with their doctors—all while sitting in their kitchen with their morning cup of coffee.

“I’ve noticed something that is unique to Houston; people are very collaborative,” Morris says. “You might go talk to one company and they’ll say you really need to meet this other company. They’ll do that introduction and make that connection.”

So, Morris says she tries to follow that example, even if the project is not something AT&T is working on: “We’re a networking company so it makes sense, right?”

Morris came to Houston in June from the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was the lead product development engineer at AT&T’s Foundry in Palo Alto. She’s no stranger to Houston, though, having lived here as a child when her grandfather worked for Shell Oil.

Here is an edited transcript of our recent conversation:

Xconomy: What made you want to lead the Foundry in Houston?

Nadia Morris: I’m hearing this more and more from everybody I’m getting to know in the healthcare industry. Everybody seems to have a personal reason to get involved. It’s two-fold for me. My father-in-law, about nine months ago, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. There were a couple of events we thought were anomalies, and then he had a bad fall. He was brought to the hospital and the doctor diagnosed him; my family’s been struggling with this ever since. They’re recently retired and now this is something that is very overwhelming for them. My mother-in-law had to pivot from being a socialite to being a home health care worker, so to speak. I’m seeing there’s such a gap between the care for seniors and what could be with the technology that we currently have.

There is also a selfish role in this because being a senior citizen is a minority group we all want to be a member of. Everything I do here at the Foundry makes my life better as I begin to age in place. We want to stay in our homes longer, live … Next Page »

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