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June 6, 2006

Technology alliance to tackle changing healthcare environment

Intel has announced the formation of an alliance of healthcare and technology companies that intend to develop systems to allow patients, caregivers and healthcare providers to more proactively address ongoing healthcare needs.

By CBR Staff Writer

The Continua Health Alliance is a collective effort to develop healthcare as the industry copes with the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, the rapid aging of the population and the need to shift from traditional institutional settings to peoples’ everyday environments, including the home.

The alliance will involve companies such as Cisco Systems, IBM, GE Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic and Motorola.

The consortium’s efforts will be focused on three major categories: chronic disease management, monitoring the health and healthcare needs of aging people, and proactive health and fitness. By enabling a network of readily connected health and medical devices, people with diabetes or other chronic diseases will be able to share glucose levels and other vital sign information with their doctors.

Adult children will be able to remotely watch over their aging parents and proactively help them manage safely in their own homes. Diet and fitness conscious individuals will also be able to seamlessly share their weight and exercise data with fitness consultants via the internet.

The benefits of interoperability go beyond improved healthcare for consumers. It provides the opportunity for a more cost-effective and efficient healthcare system, said Marc Holland, program director of health provider research at Health Industry Insights. Medical and health device manufacturers can more rapidly develop interoperable devices and services using industry-developed connectivity standards. And healthcare providers can offer better quality care through personalized health solutions assembled from a rich marketplace of interoperable healthcare devices and services.

The Continua design guidelines will not create new networking standards, but will be based on proven connectivity standards. Proven connectivity standards that will be considered include Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave and ZigBee, among other established transports. The group plans to deliver the guidelines within the next 18 months.

The group also intends 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 increased assurance of interoperability among devices, enabling them to more easily share information with care givers and service providers.

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