Intel has created a major international new alliance of healthcare hardware and software providers called Continua, in order to increase compatibility of e-healthcare devices and software, EHI can exclusively reveal.
All devices that follow the Continua standards will be compatible with one another and will feature a new ‘consumer recognisable logo’, in the same fashion as USB or Wi-Fi enabled hardware. It is hoped the adoption of clear industry standards will spur adoption of e-health technologies.
Manufacturers of e-health devices such as chronic disease management systems and monitoring systems for the elderly, as well as health and fitness consumer goods, will all be encouraged to join Continua and make their devices compatible.
This means that any device that measures blood pressure that follows Continua standards will, for instance, be able to transmit its results over any Continua-enabled PDA or wireless device to a clinician. The clinician can then use accredited hardware or software to receive the patient information.
On the consumer healthcare side, it might mean that a personal trainer could have access to all his/her clients’ readings, no matter where they are, independent of either the trainer or the client having to use any specific device.
David Whitlinger, chairman of the Continua Health Alliance and director of healthcare device standards in Intel’s digital health group told E-Health Insider: "Intel has been working on the digital health programme for about a year. This is a major programme for helping to enable the personal healthcare space. This is a major programme for the digital health group."
Founding members of the Continua Alliance
BodyMedia, Cisco Systems,
BodyMedia, Cisco Systems, GE Healthcare, IBM, Intel Corporation, Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic, Motorola, Nonin, Omron Healthcare, Panasonic (Matsushita Electric), Partners HealthCare, Polar Electro, Royal Philips Electronics, RMD Networks, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, The Tunstall Group, Welch Allyn and Zensys
Continua’s founding members are a diverse selection of large and smaller companies. These include Cisco, GE Healthcare, Philips and Intel themselves, and smaller organisations such as Harvard-based telemedicine association Partners HealthCare and The Tunstall Group. The alliance continues to be open to new members, for a contributing fee.
"At Continua, membership is open. All of those companies have equal ground inside Continua. All of the companies will be contributing to the writing of the guidelines," said Whitlinger.
The purpose of Continua will not be to reinvent standards, but to use existing ones to create an interoperable framework, Whitlinger explained. Proven standards that will be considered will include Bluetooth, USB and Wi-Fi.
Whitlinger told E-Health Insider that Intel had identified a need for a shift from providing acute care to managing long-term conditions – partly due to the rapidly aging population and partly due to chronic disease over taking acute problems in both developed and developing countries. "We think that we should be proactive about this."
"The benefits of interoperability go beyond improved healthcare for consumers. It provides the opportunity for a more cost-effective and efficient healthcare system," Mark Holland, programme director, Health Provider Research, at advisory firm Health Industry Insights. "Medical and health device manufacturers can more rapidly develop interoperable devices and services using industry-developed connectivity standards."
The first devices designed to the standards set by the Continua alliance are expected to go on the market within the next 18 months.