Continua Alliance to help Denmark with telemedicine standards

By Eric Wicklund
08:19 AM

The homeland of Hans Christian Andersen, Tivoli Gardens and Hamlet is considered one of Europe's leaders in telemedicine. Now Denmark is relying upon the Continua Health Alliance to make sure that effort follows a uniform set of standards.

Officials at Continua, the Beaverton, Ore.-based non-profit organization focused on end-to-end, plug-and-play connectivity for personal health devices and services, say Denmark will be using Continua's design guidelines to develop an "Action Plan for Telemedicine." That plan will establish reference architectures and national standards for health IT "in areas including the secure collection, transmission and storage of personal health data from patients’ homes, sharing medical documents and images, and the management of health records, medical appointments and other related information."

“Denmark already leads the world in its national telemedicine program. With the adoption of Continua’s Guidelines, Denmark has become the first country to establish national standards for interoperability of personal health technologies," said Chuck Parker, Continua's executive director. "This is adoption on an unprecedented scale and marks the beginning of a new era in Denmark’s healthcare system.”

“Our partnership with Denmark validates Continua’s mission to develop a global ecosystem of plug-and-play devices in personal connected health. We are proud to have them as a partner and share this exciting moment in healthcare history,” he added.

According to a study released in May by the European Commission's Joint Research Center, Denmark – along with England and Scotland – is seen as a pioneer in the use of telemedicine in standard patient treatments.

“The Danes have succeeded in deploying telehealth, because all relevant stakeholders have been encouraged to join in. One cannot hope that the market alone can push the use of telehealth into care practice," said Fabienne Abadie, a scientific officer at the center, in the report. "A good model of governance, at regional or national level, is crucial to support telehealth in order to reap the benefits it offers. In this process, stakeholders such as the healthcare professionals play a vital role."

That study further pointed out that the future success of telemedicine and telehealth programs depends on a number of factors, including funding for mainstreaming, an integrated governance model, stakeholder engagement and a strong set of legal and clinical standards.

That's where Continua's guidelines come in.

“In these early days of connected health, Denmark’s decision to base their telehealth system on Continua Guidelines underscores the importance of using industry standards from the start," said Clint McClellan, the organization's president and senior director of strategic marketing for San Diego-based Qualcomm Life. "Too many early adopters have elected to deploy proprietary systems, limiting their choice of features and vendors. As this industry evolves, Denmark can rely upon future releases of the Guidelines to safeguard their investment.”

“Denmark has taken the first pioneering step in revolutionizing healthcare. This important milestone made by the Danish government helps reduce healthcare costs and helps citizens to become more engaged in their health,” said Claus F. Nielsen, vice chairman of Continua Health Alliance Europe and International Manager at DELTA, a Danish research and technology organization. “By working with Continua to create the technical guidelines and standards for this historic effort, patients in any part of the nation, using any Continua-ready device or platform, will have secure, simple and convenient access to valuable health data and support from their healthcare providers, from the comfort and convenience of their home."

Late last year, the country launched its largest telemedicine project ever, a two-year, 2,000-patient study involving 10 municipalities, four hospitals and a number of providers. The study is focusing on five groups – patients with COPD, diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases and pregnant women with and without complications – and is analyzing home-based treatment on a national scale.

"There is no doubt that it is the way we should go," Health Minister Astrid Krag said when the project was announced. "Patients are saved the trouble of going to hospital, and hospital beds are saved. With close telemedical supervision the professional hospital staff can detect early if the condition is worsening in a patient in their living room. It can prevent costly hospitalizations."

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