Continua Health Alliance unveils guidelines for health and fitness services

PORTLAND, Ore. The Continua Health Alliance, a group of technology, medical device and health and fitness industry leaders, on Wednesday unveiled the key components of its first set of technical guidelines to help establish a market of connected personal health and fitness products and services.

Once implemented, Continua Health Alliance compliant products can be used in conjunction with one another—linking blood pressure monitor readings with body mass index readings, for example.

The first set of guidelines, due out early 2008, are based on proven connectivity standards and will help to increase assurance of interoperability between devices, enabling consumers to share information with caregivers and service providers more easily.

The Version One standards include the Bluetooth Medical Device Profile Specification (Bluetooth SIG), USB Personal Health Device Specification (USB Forum), ISO/IEEE 11073 Personal Health Device Specifications (IEEE), and Health Level 7 for integration with standards-based electronic health records (EHR). The comprehensive set of guidelines will help improve the quality of care by empowering consumers and their healthcare providers to more simply share information through common communication channels such as telephones, cell phones, PCs, TV set top boxes, as well as other dedicated health devices.

“Continua is committed to empowering consumers and patients world wide, to take an active role in their own care through the use of technology,” stated Dave Whitlinger, chairman of the Continua Health Alliance. “Continua’s membership will utilize the Version One Guidelines to create connected health devices and services that provide individuals the tools they need to proactively manage their health.”

Continua Health Alliance also announced Wednesday it is working with Abt Associates on a research project targeting reimbursement policy. Abt Associates will assist in cataloging, synthesizing and assessing all telehealth studies and the peer-reviewed cost-effectiveness literature. This work will help Continua determine strategies for initiating increasing telehealth cost effectiveness, initiating quality improvement studies and for securing reimbursement for telehealth products and services.

Manufacturers of products that meet these guidelines will be permitted to use the Continua Health Alliance certification logo to promote their products.

In its first year, Continua has grown from 22 to 133 member companies, with its efforts focused on a continuum of life and care methods, particularly chronic disease management, maintaining healthy independence for the aging, and proactive health and fitness. Interoperability allows patients to use the best devices for their individual needs and provides immediate access to health information. These standards recognize devices that can work together and communicate in each of these three fields, helping maximize positive health outcomes.

In the field of chronic disease management, a network of readily connected health and medical devices will allow people with diabetes or other chronic diseases to share vital information with their doctors. These interoperable devices include blood glucose tests, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and other basic vital sign monitors. Devices such as motion sensors, medication reminders and emergency response services ease the burden on family and professionals who provide care for the aging.

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