Healthcare industry groups seek compatibility standards for medical devices

With the explosion of new technologies in medical devices, particularly personal wearable products that connect to smartphones through apps, healthcare industry groups have begun searching for ways to make sure data can be shared easily from platform to platform.

Recently, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group adopted the Continuous Glucose Monitoring Profile (CGM), developed by the Medical Device Working Group, to standardize data collection, measurement and delivery for Bluetooth Smart glucose monitors. Accurate testing and monitoring is an essential element in managing and treating, not only diabetes, but most medical issues, the group said in a press release.

Errett Kroeter

Wireless technologies like Bluetooth make "it possible for developers and OEMS (original equipment manufacturers) to build wireless wearable devices--watches, glasses, fitness trackers--that work reliably with the products consumers already own," Errett Kroeter, a spokesman for Bluetooth SIG, said in a statement. "We are seeing this same market enablement start to play out in the medical industry, thanks to the flexibility, interoperability and global accessibility of Bluetooth Smart. The CGM profile is just the tip of the iceberg."

IHS Technology ($IHS) forecasts the number of devices related to monitoring health and wellness will grow from 2.9 million in 2013 to 17.1 million in 2018. Of the total number of devices in 2013, 851,000 were Bluetooth Smart enabled. It's expected the Bluetooth number will hit 13.2 million by 2018.

Separately, the IEEE Standards Association, which calls itself a global leader in advancing technology for humanity, released two new medical device standards and a revised a previous standard designed to support plug-and-play, interoperable communications across "e-health" devices.

Their new guidelines cover devices for Sleep Apnea Breathing Therapy and Continuous Glucose Monitoring. The revised guideline was for the group's "Standard for Health Informatics ­Personal Health Device Communication ­Part 20601: Application Profile ­Optimized Exchange Protocol".

"Global interoperability standards ... are integral to the e-health vision, in that they help disparate, multi-vendor devices, systems and applications for e-health to speak the same language and communicate with one another, toward the goal of enabling revolutionary services that help more people live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives," Konstantinos Karachalios, managing director for the IEEE Standards Association, said in a statement.

The West Health Institute estimates that standards-based interoperability between medical devices could save more than $30 billion a year in addition to improving patient care and safety. So far, the FDA has recognized more than a dozen IEEE standards, the group said.

-see the Bluetooth release
-see the IEEE release