By Nadia Morris

I was honored to moderate this month’s inaugural Connect to End Cancer panel at the SXSW® Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas. It was a great opportunity. I shared what my team at the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health in Houston works on. I met others who are changing the industry. And most importantly, I learned what’s in store for the future of health care.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Merck & Co., Inc. biopharmaceuticals joined as founding partners in arranging panel discussions. Our theme: Connect to End Cancer.

The AT&T Foundry panelists included:

  • John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations
  • Chief Innovation Officer Rebecca Kaul, MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Vice President and Therapeutic Area Expert Dr. Pierre R. Theodore, Thoracic Surgical Oncology, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices
  • Chief Clinical Transformation Officer and Senior Medical Director Jay Rajda, Aetna Health and Clinical Services

The panelists discussed hospitals’ software migration from the basement to the cloud. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and researchers all want better, trusted ways to share data while maintaining patient privacy.

John Donovan discussed potential health care use cases for the 3rd evolution of our network: AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo – which includes a trusted environment where organizations can share data and collaborate on analytics. And this will include a data community for health care. He touched on the research advancements Indigo could make, including cancer research.

The group discussed how the 5G network AT&T is rolling out could accelerate telemedicine and connecting patients to doctors, regardless of their location.

We also talked about the importance of connected medical devices. These could change the patient experience dramatically – streamlining, automating and simplifying it. That includes improving home health care with real-time data from these devices to the cloud and care team.

Texas has a flourishing, vibrant ecosystem of health care startups. So we talked about the venture capital and investment landscape for health care in the state. Silicon Valley executives are shaking things up. They’re leaving their tech companies to reinvent health care by forming startups.

This opens the door for startup growth in areas outside the Bay area.

After the panel, 3 startups took the stage to pitch their innovative medical devices. This included:

  • A pill-dispensing robot for the patient’s bedside.
  • A multifunctional hand-held device that analyzes your breath and saliva for everything from temperature, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels.
  • A bra-like-device that performs a sonogram for breast cancer screening – my personal favorite.

Following a tear-inducing closing speech, we met former Vice President Biden and discussed the future of technology meeting health care. He was encouraging and happy to hear how AT&T is leveraging technology to help people heal.

I had so many takeaways to bring back to my team in Houston. I was filled with a sense of energy and hope.

There is a reason for so many startups in the health care space. This is the right time to get involved. Technology is beyond novel or mildly useful for medical applications: It’s vital.

From connected medical devices to collaborative cloud communities – connectivity is key. At the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health, we’re inspired to make these possibilities realities. We have an amazing future in store.

“SxSW” from left to right: Missy Krassner, Box; Nadia Morris, AT&T; Zac Bujnoch, AT&T; Judi Manis, AT&T; John Donovan, AT&T; Maryanne Uselton, AT&T; Chris Penrose, AT&T; Jessica Autrey, AT&T; Pierre Theodore, Johnson & Johnson.

“SxSW panel” from left to right: Nadia Morris, AT&T; John Donovan, AT&T; Rebecca Kaul, MD Anderson; Pierre Theodore, Johnson & Johnson; Jay Rajda, Aetna