Creating a Common Language for the Next Wave of Health Devices


Medical devices are evolving rapidly into a new generation that’s not only more portable, but more networkable. The information they produce will be instantly available to everyone who might need it— doctors, caregivers, and not least of all, the patients themselves. Well, that’s the goal, anyway. But devices that were developed independent of any standard frequently have proprietary ways of creating and reporting data. This means they may only be able to talk to devices from the same manufacturer, or require paper output for any practical form of information sharing.

The IEEE 11073™ family of standards for device communications includes several standards in various stages of development, intended to bring interoperability and standardized communication to medical devices such as these:

  • IEEE 11073-00103™-2012, Guide for Health Informatics – Personal Health Device Communication – Overview, describes the landscape of transport-independent applications and information profiles for personal telehealth devices ranging from health monitoring to wellness devices. These profiles define data exchange, data representation, and terminology for communication between personal telehealth devices and all forms of compute engines (e.g. health appliances, set top boxes, cell phones, and personal computers). Telehealth devices are different enough in their use from other point-of-care medical devices to require their own standards — ensuring interoperability of compatible devices.
  • IEEE 11073-10103™-2012 extends the base nomenclature provided in ISO/IEEE 11073-10101 to support common, clinically relevant terminology for implantable cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators. By standardizing the terminology used to describe the settings and measurements of these devices, both the ordering and follow-up reporting can more easily be integrated with health care applications, such as electronic health records, order entry systems, and electronic patient records. This integration will result in greater access to critical patient information and automated verification that clinical orders have been completed in a timely fashion, ultimately resulting in increased quality of care and patient safety.

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