Convergence Comes to Health Care

A new alliance has been created to push forward consumer technologies for networked home health care monitoring.

A consortium to encourage connected personal health technologies dubbed the Continua Health Alliance was announced recently.

The industry group intends to establish an environment conducive to the development of networked personal health and fitness products and services.

A wide range of devices are targeted for connection to health care providers, including everything from the bathroom scales to glucose monitors to medication dispensers.

The stated intention of the group is to help shift health care from being simply reactive to crisis events to being more proactive in establishing good daily health habits.

"First and foremost, this alliance is about helping to empower people with the information they need to better manage their health and the health of their loved ones," said David Whitlinger, chairman of the Continua Health Alliance and director of health care device standards in Intels Digital Health Group.

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The Continua Health Alliance efforts will be focused on three major health care needs: chronic disease management, monitoring the health and health care needs of aging people and proactive health and fitness.

Patients with chronic diseases consume upwards of 80 percent of health care spending. The hope is that using technology to monitor these patients more effectively and frequently in a home setting could ensure more consistent care and fewer crisis events that are costly and dangerous to patient health.

Founding members of the alliance include: IT industry heavyweights IBM, Intel and Cisco; consumer electronics leaders like Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung, Sharp and Motorola; major health care companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Partners HealthCare and GE Healthcare; and health care device makers like Medtronic, Omron Healthcare, BodyMedia and Polar Electro.

The group plans to deliver guidelines within the next 18 months for networked personal health care products based on existing connectivity standards like USB and Wi-Fi.

Continua also plans to establish a product certification program with a consumer recognizable logo signifying the promise of interoperability with other certified products.

Products made under Continua guidelines will provide consumers with assurance of interoperability among devices, allowing them to more easily share information with caregivers and service providers.

Eventually, the group is also hoping to work with government agencies and insurers to guarantee the adoption of these technologies by making them at least partially reimbursable, so that consumers and health care payers share the cost of prevention.

"We have a great interest in the wellness of our members, not just when theyre sick," asserts Dave Watson chief technology officer of Kaiser Permanente.

"This is about the ability to deliver health care outside the walls of our hospital."

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