New ITU standard enables health data exchange

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Approval marks accelerated push for e-health standards

Geneva, 14 March 2014 – Following calls for increased global coordination of standards enabling e-health, ITU has offered first stage approval to an important specification enabling an exchange of multimedia health data between a health provider, a controlling function and patient.

The new standard will enable different e-health systems to smoothly exchange patient health data in both low- and high-resource settings, making it ideal for applications in both developed and developing countries.

e-Health experts explain that a combination of a common data definition with connectivity across different systems – ranging from the personal health and point-of-care devices described in Recommendation ITU-T H.810 (see

press release) to a range of health management back-ends – will provide simple, secure and scalable interoperability.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré noted, “In addition to technical issues, discussions on e-health encompass legal, ethical, cultural, economic and regional aspects. We have seen increased impetus by the e-health community to engage with ITU in order to facilitate a rapid rollout of these technologies that have such a valuable role to play in bolstering global health initiatives.”

The development of Recommendation ITU-T H.860, Multimedia e-health data exchange services: Architecture, services and data dictionary was led by ITU Member Platform Health, a non-profit organization, based on successful reference implementations in a range of countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Masahito Kawamori, Rapporteur: “We would not have been able to make such rapid progress without the opportunities for networking and discussions at the two WHO Forums on Health Data Standardization and Interoperability in which ITU was an active participant. ITU-T H.860 will also contribute to the ongoing work of the WHO Health Systems and Innovation Cluster.”

The common health schema of Recommendation ITU-T H.860 is applicable to a wide spectrum of diseases (non-communicable, communicable, maternal/child, trauma, etc.), interventions (preventive, curative, palliative), and health IT systems (from simple standalone, to integrated care, web services and mobile applications).

Note to technical editors

ITU-T-H.860 standard sets-out:

  • Common Health Data Schema (made-up of existing data standards such as ICD-10, CPT-4/5, LOINC, SNOMED, etc.)
  • Collaborative Development Framework (Governance)
  • Basic Service Architecture (enabling data security and scalability)

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