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Digital health and standards

Digital Health offers tremendous opportunities in today’s context of demographic change, increasing health care costs and limited availability of health professionals worldwide. It is an evolving concept and according to the World Health Organization​ (WHO), "digital health, or the use of digital technologies for health, has become a salient field of practice for employing routine and innovative forms of information and communications technology (ICT) to address health needs." The term digital health evolved from the concept of e-health*, of which mobile health (m-health) is a subset. The term digital health can then be understood as "a broad umbrella term encompassing e-health (which includes m-health), as well as emerging areas, such as the use of advanced computing sciences in 'big data', genomics and artificial intelligence".

​​E-health standardization has been on ITU-T’s agenda since 2003 and this work was given further impetus by the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12) in Dubai, UAE, 20-29 November 2012, which adopted Resolution 78 - Information and communication technology applications and standards for improved access to e-health. This followed the Global Standards Symposium (GSS-12) held the day preceding WTSA-12, 19 November 2012, where participants expressed the need for ITU to taking a leading role in the e-health field by building on its collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) to create a global, open environment for the development and promotion of e-health standards. Although an array of multimedia systems have emerged in support of e-health applications, in particular in the area of telemedicine*, the adoption and success of e-health and telemedicine applications will demand conformance with standards to increase interoperability among systems, safeguard privacy and security, and reduce the cost of devices through economies of scale.

ITU-T is developing standardized multimedia systems to support widespread deployment of e-health applications. The work is coordinated with the WHO, ITU-D and ITU-R and with organizations developing standards relating to e-health. For example:
In addition to technical questions, discussions around e-health enfold a variety of fields (e.g. legal, ethical, cultural, economic, regional) and ITU-T’s international, consensus-driven processes thus pr​ovide the right environment to harmonize and coordinate the development of a set of open global standards for e-health applications. 

* E-health refers to the use of ICTs to support health needs, while telemedicine is considered the part of e-health where telecommunication systems allow the interconnection of remote locations to enable remote access to distant medical resources and expertise. ​In contrast, m-health is a subset of e-health and defined as "the use of mobile wireless technologies for health".
​​​​​​​​​ ITU Standardization​ roadmap​ ​ITU standards overview​​​ Safe Listening​​​
AI for health​​​

Video



Clint McClellan, former Chairman and President of Continua Health Alliance, interviewed in October 2013 ​​on Continua’s collaboration with ITU and the ongoing transposition of Continua’s Design Guidelines into the Recommendation ITU-T H.810 "Interoperability design guidelines for personal health systems".