Verizon, AT&T add health vets to boards

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 8, 2013        

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Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson

Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson

Verizon announced the election of Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson to its board of directors, just  a week after AT&T added retired Humana CEO Michael McCallister to its board.

Wasson has been Walgreens CEO since 2009, working his way up within the company from pharmacy intern in 1980. Walgreens has been a strong driver of mobile health engagement, with a hugely popular medication management app. The company recently made headlines when it released its API to third party developers.

McCallister recently retired after a 12-year tenure as CEO at Humana. During that time, the company made several strong ventures into mobile health, including online wellness platform HumanaVitality.

Tom Gara at the Wall Street Journal blog tied the new appointments to the two companies’ increasing “Internet of things” strategies at CES 2013. He makes the case that as there are fewer people without mobile phones, carriers cant count on as much revenue from their core business. Instead they have to look to a new growth area, and that area is connected devices, including, in a large part connected health devices. Having medical and pharmaceutical expertise on board, he argues, can only enhance those strategies.

However, these new board appointments are only the latest in a multi-year trend of operators becoming more and more involved in the healthcare space, and personnel appointments have been part of that strategy for some time.

Sprint hired Julee Thompson to the newly-created position of Chief Healthcare Executive in mid-2011. AT&T created a Chief Medical Information Officer position in late 2011, appointing Dr. Geeta Nayyar to the post. Verizon’s Dr. Peter Tippet holds the titles of both chief medical officer and vice president for the company’s health IT practice. In October 2012, Verizon Wireless brought former Humana mobile executive business lead Julie Kling on as director of product management for mobile health.

By adding health perspectives to their respective boards, Verizon and AT&T are making even clearer their commitment to incorporating healthcare into their overall mobile strategies.

For more on mobile operators’ healthcare strategies, be sure to check out MobiHealthNews report, Mobile Operators and Digital Health, over in our research store.