Interoperability essential for delivering connected healthcare

Interoperability essential for delivering connected healthcare

By Clint McClellan

Continua Health Alliance has established industry standards for end-to-end plug-and-play interoperability for personal connected health devices and systems. Together with ITU, we will promote these standards as the open, global, common interoperability standards for the personal connected health industry.

The prevention and management of chronic conditions – such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart failure – is a critical priority in the world today. Many healthcare institutions, government ministries and health authorities are looking to personal health technologies to improve healthcare efficiencies, extend care beyond the traditional setting of a hospital or doctor’s office and empower individuals with chronic disease to take charge of their health. As a result, interoperability is becoming a key criteria for delivering care remotely via readily-available consumer products such as smartphones, tablets and computers.

So, how do we define interoperability?  One generic definition is, ‘the ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without any special effort from the customer.’ To define interoperability relative to healthcare delivery, the AAMI (the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation) and a number of health information technology organizations define it as ’the ability of medical devices, clinical systems or their components to communicate in order to safely fulfill an intended purpose.’ Continua defines interoperability as ‘the ability of a client component in a device to communicate and share data with a variety of server components in an unambiguous and predictable manner to exchange data accurately, effectively and consistently.’ Continua’s interoperability mission is built around ‘plug-and-play,’ which enables users (be they consumers or healthcare providers) to connect devices, systems and services simply, independently and with a minimum of fuss.

Mobile health, apps and wireless systems and devices are quickly becoming ubiquitous in our daily lives. Turning these readily available technologies into personal health assistants will dramatically improve health management, clinical outcomes and quality of life, while bringing much needed efficiencies to our worldwide healthcare system. In order to accomplish this, devices and services must be consumer-friendly and easily and securely share data with healthcare providers, care partners and others. In other words, they must be interoperable at the plug-and-play level.

Continua Health Alliance is the only organization convening global technology industry standards to develop end-to-end, plug-and-play connectivity for personal connected health. Continua’s Design Guidelines and test tools can expedite the deployment of personal connected health devices and systems, and are proven to decrease time to market and reduce development costs.  In the marketplace, Continua’s Design Guidelines facilitate flexibility, innovation and improved return-on-investment for users of Continua-certified devices, which in turn nourishes the personal connected health ecosystem.

Now, through our collaboration with ITU, Continua’s Design Guidelines are on track to become a global standard for personal connected health devices and systems. Devices such as wireless blood pressure cuffs, weight scales and a wide range of activity trackers can play a critical role in the prevention and improved management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Establishing global interoperability standards will also greatly benefit manufacturers. In addition to decreasing time-to-market, reducing development costs and increasing efficiencies, Continua’s Design Guidelines enable quicker, less expensive integration to electronic medical records (EMR) or health information exchange (HIE) platforms.

Many forward-thinking countries and health authorities around the world are now mandating Continua’s interoperability Design Guidelines when designing and implementing national connected health initiatives. For example, Denmark has published the world’s first public tenders requiring compliance with Continua Guidelines, and Abu Dhabi is developing a Continua standards-based mobile platform for population-level disease management. In the UK, as part of the 3millionlivescampaign, several National Health Service (NHS) groups have issued a tender requiring all personal health devices implement specifications based on Continua Design Guidelines.

As the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, our partnership with ITU is invaluable in helping us formulate and prepare our interoperability Guidelines for dissemination globally. ITU’s members represent a cross-section of some of the world’s largest manufacturers, emerging companies and innovative research and academic institutions. Together, we are working to establish Continua Design Guidelines as the global standard to support seamless collection, storage and secure transmission of personal medical information for more efficient healthcare delivery, better outcomes and patient engagement in health self-management.

We applaud ITU for taking on the issue of health improvement and using its global forum to advance industry-based standards needed to support personal connected health around the world. Together, we will connect the world’s people to improve the health and wellness of all individuals and help technology companies succeed in the rapidly expanding connected health ecosystem.

On behalf of Continua’s members, board of directors and staff, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with ITU, to improve healthcare delivery around the world.

To learn more about how Continua’s Design Guidelines can facilitate personal connected health, read our case study about how a Continua-certified cardiovascular remote monitoring program helped victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

By: Clint McClellan

Clint McClellan, Board President and Chairman, Continua Health Alliance and Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, Qualcomm Life, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated
Clint McClellan is currently the Senior Director of Strategic Marketing for Qualcomm Life where establishing opportunities in the Wireless Health market is one of his current responsibilities. McClellan joined Qualcomm in December of 1997 as director of Strategic Marketing. Currently, he is the president and chairman of the board of the Continua Health Alliance, an international not-for-profit industry group, and the leading organization convening global technology industry standards to develop end-to-end, plug-and-play connectivity for personal connected health. Clint tweets at @clintmc1
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