Continua aims to make health games interoperable

By Brian Dolan
10:15 am
Fujitsu F-01C

The first Continua certified phone

More and more devices are hitting the market to help people live healthier lives. While the data collected by these devices is beginning to accumulate, most devices still can't communicate with each other or cross platforms to make the collection of data from numerous devices simple. That poses a problem for patients, doctors or any other caregiver who might want to take a holistic view of data generated from mobile health devices.

The Continua Health Alliance is working to ease that problem by offering up guidelines for ensuring interoperable connected health devices. The group has already released two sets of guidelines over the last five years, and has plans to release a new set this summer. Continua already has major technology companies like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft on board as well as medical device makers like Novartis, Roche and healthcare providers like St. Jude Medical and Ascension Health joining in. The first Continua certified mobile phone was announced late last year: the Fujitsu F-01C.

At a recent industry event, Games For Health Conference in Boston, Continua's executive director Chuck Parker discussed the group's work in the context of health gaming. A report from LiveScience includes a number of remarks from Parker, including this one:

"Games show great promise for motivating and engaging people over the long term," Parker said.

Continua hopes its standards provide a way for people to interact with multiple data sources so that one day a consumer's Nike+ running shoes will tie in data to the person's Wii Fit workouts. The alliances hopes to bring gaming elements to the forefront of health devices in order to encourage patients to use them. Bridging the gap between the numerous mobile and home-based gaming platforms as will as the myriad mobile health devices means finding ways to store that data so it's easily accessible -- like in a cloud-based online service. With the new standards coming up, device makers will have standardized mechanisms for accessing data and sharing it.

According to the alliance, devices operating under the new compatibility standards will hit the market in the next 18 months. Best Buy also has plans to stock a number of such medical and health devices while Google claims its smartphones will boast compatibility with devices adhering to the standards. Will a Google Android phone be the next Continua-certified mobile phone?

Back in April 2010, Accenture released a survey called, “The Dawn of a New Age in Healthcare, An early look at the market for networked devices in mHealth,” which featured a number of anonymous comments from wireless health industry executives. The survey found that the number two thing holding mHealth back was Interoperability and Standards. Whether there are too many standards, or not enough interoperability, the whole mess requires alliances like Continua's to get devices and device makers to work together and make all the data we are collecting even more useful in the future.

For more, read the LiveScience article