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IEEE Standards Association Sees New Interest Among Industry and Government Alike to Achieve Seamless Framework for Standards-based ‘e-Health’

Vivian Kelly, For IEEE Standards Association
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WASHINGTON, mHEALTH SUMMIT, 10 December 2013 – Tens of billions of dollars a year reportedly slip through the cracks in interoperability and connectivity among medical devices in the United States alone, but it now appears there exists new interest to close those gaps in the global web of healthcare, says the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA).

“The global healthcare industry is motivated to move toward a scenario in which more effort and investment is spent on keeping people well, as opposed to getting them healed. Aging population, urgency to get control of healthcare costs and innovation in monitoring and telemedicine capabilities are among the forces influencing this basic, historic shift in strategy,” said Konstantinos Karachalios, managing director, IEEE-SA. “Standards-based interoperability and communications among medical devices is the platform on top of which this global transformation will play out, and it is evident that there is more market determination than ever to get such a foundation in place.”

The ability for health information to be seamlessly shared among devices and enterprise health systems is key to improving patient safety, managing individual health and lowering healthcare costs. Indeed, “Driving Medical Interoperability to Improve Care and Lower Costs“ is on the agenda at the mHealth Summit external link this week (8-11 December) in Washington, affirming that interoperability is essential to creating a sustainable connected health ecosystem.

The inability of multi-vendor medical devices to exchange information across primarily proprietary interfaces has been identified as a prime culprit in the inefficiencies and waste in healthcare worldwide. In the United States, for example, standards-based interoperability among medical devices “could be a source of more than $30 billion a year in savings and improve patient care and safety,” concluded the West Health Institute external link in a March 2013 analysis that was released at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health1.

The IEEE-SA reports strong interest among industry and government to put in place the standards-based foundation that would support the medical-device interoperabiity and communications that the global healthcare community seeks.

Earlier this year, for example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized interoperability-related standards in its guidance to the healthcare industry. Twelve such standards that the FDA recognized are among the IEEE 11073™ family, which is designed to help healthcare product vendors and integrators create interoperable devices and systems for disease management, health and fitness and independent living that can help save lives and improve quality of life for people worldwide. For more information on the FDA’s recognition of the IEEE 11073 standards, please see the 12 November 2013 press release.

By supporting interoperable communications among both traditional medical devices and personal health devices, the IEEE 11073 standards assist in the support of patients living independently with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, high blood pressure, stroke and atrial fibrillation. In addition, the IEEE-SA is an international leader in media-access device standards for the Internet on which medical-device communications increasingly rely (such as IEEE 802.3™ “Standard for Ethernet” and IEEE 802.112 , which enables products that are often branded as “Wi-Fi®” in the market), as well as the groundbreaking field of “body area networking” (such as IEEE 802.15.6™ “Standard for Local and metropolitan area networks - Part 15.6: Wireless Body Area Networks”).

Driven by its industry participants to intensify its efforts in this field, the IEEE-SA earlier this year signed a collaborative agreement with Continua Health Alliance to help accelerate and broaden the adoption of globally relevant standards-based technologies for the healthcare arena. The collaborative agreement is intended to provide an environment for like-minded organizations and individuals to come together quickly, effectively and economically to collaborate on standards-based solutions for the global healthcare arena to the benefit of equipment manufacturers, governments and consumers worldwide. For more information on the IEEE-SA’s partnership with Continua, please see the 12 November 2013 press release.

For more information on the IEEE-SA’s array of healthcare information technology (IT) standards, please visit

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About the IEEE Standards Association
The IEEE Standards Association, a globally recognized standards-setting body within IEEE, develops consensus standards through an open process that engages industry and brings together a broad stakeholder community. IEEE standards set specifications and best practices based on current scientific and technological knowledge. The IEEE-SA has a portfolio of over 900 active standards and more than 500 standards under development. For more information visit the IEEE-SA Web site.

About IEEE
IEEE, a large, global technical professional organization, is dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Through its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities, IEEE is the trusted voice on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Learn more at the IEEE Web site. external link

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2IEEE 802.11™ “Standard for Information technology--Telecommunications and information exchange between systems Local and metropolitan area networks--Specific requirements Part 11: Wireless LAN Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) Specifications”