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Europe Urged to Support U.S.-Based Telehealth Standards

Five nations and a region of Spain are asking Europe to adopt telehealth standards developed by Continua and supported by the Personal Connected Health Alliance.

- Five nations and a region in Spain are looking to the U.S. for help in pushing the needle on telehealth adoption in Europe.

In a three-page letter sent in June to Europe’s 28-member eHealth Network and the European Commission to promote eHealth policies, healthcare officials from Sweden, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Norway and Spain’s Catalonia region ask for, among other things, “a European evaluation of an end-to-end interoperability framework based on international standards for personal connected health.”

The officials cite barriers familiar to telehealth advocates in the U.S.: healthcare systems reluctant to update legacy IT systems that can’t easily support new technology, and a hesitance to adopt open standards that would enable interoperability.

The six regions have all adopted or supported mHealth interoperability standards developed by Oregon-based Continua and favored by the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA), of which Continua is a founding member. With the letter, they’re looking for help in bringing Europe together under one set of mHealth standards.

It won’t be easy. Just this year, European health officials were able to agree on a code of conduct for mHealth app developers after lengthy debate.

“Telehealth has demonstrated considerable potential as an approach for empowering citizens with timely personalized health data and improving health and quality of life for our people,” Sara Meunier, chief technology officer of Inera/SALAR, Sweden’s eHealth agency, said in a recent LinkedIn post from the PCHA and Continua.  “Our letter appeals to the eHealth Network and its Member States to help us overcome gridlock in the industry and advance the adoption of open standards for interoperable personal connected health.” 

Continua, an Oregon-based standards organization whose Continua Design Guidelines have been adopted in countries across the globe, and the PCHA, an offshoot of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) launched in 2014, have long been lobbying for a common set of standards and interoperability guidelines that could link telehealth and mHealth networks around the world.

“The Continua Design Guidelines were developed and are updated annually to support open, interoperable health data exchange that goes hand in hand with the public sector mission for convenient, personalized and high quality healthcare,” Rob Havasy, executive director of Continua, vice president of the PCHA and a former Partners Health administrator, said. “We are grateful for the pioneering work of these government agencies, that are paving the way for improved healthcare access, quality and outcomes through telehealth and personal connected health.”

In a nod to the continued reluctance in healthcare to adopt mHealth platforms, the letter also asks Continua and the PCHA to “help us change the market dynamics for personal connected health.”

“The ongoing work of initiatives such as the Personal Connected Health Alliance has started to move the needle, but for a market breakthrough we need more countries and regions to join,” it stated.

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