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 Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A joint ITU-WHO workshop on “e-Health standards and Interoperability” at ITU headquarters in Geneva, 26-27 April, gathered experts from the healthcare and ICT communities to discuss means of leveraging today’s advanced communications capabilities to achieve more efficient, cost-effective and equitable health services worldwide.

Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) opening the event: "With a growing, ageing, population in the 21st century, it is clear that one of the areas where ICTs can help make the greatest difference is in the provision and delivery of healthcare. ICTs are now understood to play a pivotal role in increasing efficiency and quality in delivery of health care, and reducing risk and suffering, particularly among the most vulnerable communities in developing countries. However, in e-health unfortunately standardized solutions are rare. Interoperability is a key determinant of e-Health’s efficient and equitable rollout. This is not an area where we can afford to have costly squabbles over proprietary technologies. International standards will bring down costs, increase access, and improve efficiencies."
 
The workshop showcased innovative healthcare technologies and policy frameworks already in force, and pointed to areas where interoperable ICT standards could further stimulate such innovations’ development and implementation.
 
The workshop hosted a lively exchange of ideas and brought healthcare and ICT experts together to form the relationships certain to underpin the development of next-generation healthcare services. The workshop’s closing session focused on the future of e-Health standardization which, judging by the volume of input received from attendees, represents the beginnings of what is sure to be a very fruitful collaboration between ITU and WHO. It was suggested at the event that ITU and WHO provide a platform to lead these discussions, with the participation of the key e-health stakeholders.
 
At the event, the following actions were suggested to the various stakeholders:
 
Suggested ITU-WHO actions:

- Joint policy brief on the essentiality of standards and interoperability to the exchange of medical data, as well as outreach activities to educate policy-makers and business leaders on the relevance and application of e-health standards
- Creation of an e-health Working Group to advise ITU and WHO on steps to be taken in the future
- Collaborate with other Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to create an information portal detailing all available healthcare standards and best practices in their application
 
SDO actions:

- Coordinate with the new HL7 initiative on mobile e-health
- ITU and HL7 to develop a specification for the use of ITU-T X.1303 CAP specification within HL7 to deliver health warning messages
- Consider effective cost models for e-health standards licensing
- Collaborate in the development of a common e-health standards roadmap; ensuring no work is duplicated, and encouraging a converged view on the structure of data and information in the e-health context
 
Points of relevance to the technical community (drawn from ICT and healthcare sectors):

- Address interoperability challenges impeding the development of an open, global infrastructure to enable the exchange of health information
- Begin development of an e-health standards ecosystem by addressing the required functional features of e-health technologies, while at the same time allowing these systems enough flexibility to evolve in line with the development of new technologies or best practices
- The imperative to e-health that is Quality of Service (QoS)
 
More information on the Workshop’s objectives: here
The Workshop’s programme (with speakers’ biographies and presentations  attached): here.

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