Much like mobile banking, one of the greatest applications of mHealth is in poor or undeveloped countries. Indeed, mobile devices will often bring healthcare services to the exact same “unbanked” people that mobile banking services target. As a result, mHealth is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon – and today we see two organizations who want to make sure the coming flood of such services adhere to strict standards.
Who are the two companies involved here?
Global Certification Forum (GCF):
The GCF has been around since 1999. It’s not a healthcare company – it’s a standards body. More than that, it’s a standards body that is dedicated solely to 3GPP technologies: the globally recognizable GSM, HSPA, EDGE and LTE network architectures. For GCF, the important thing is to ensure that new devices which will access 3GPP networks do so properly. It doesn’t certify applications or services, it just works with wireless devices (mobile devices, laptops or anything that connects wirelessly). The core principle of the company is “test once, use anywhere”. If you get a GCF certification for your device, it should be able to run on any of the above networks, anywhere in the world.
Continua Health Alliance:
Continua is the medical branch of this co-operation. It’s an open organization of technology and healthcare companies, with over 230 industry members around the world. The overall aim of the Alliance is to improve the quality of personal healthcare. But the other most important part of the Alliance is that it’s about technological solutions – and it wants these to be interoperable. In order to get certified by Continua, your product has to be able to interact fluidly with other Continua-certified products. The Alliance envisions a completely connected healthcare network. In Continua’s world, you can get constant health checks over distance by transmitting your vital signs and medical information through a system of connected healthcare technologies – from advice on working out, to monitoring the chronic condition of a loved one.
What are they doing together?
They are combining their interests into one, global certification scheme – for wirelessly-connected personal health devices. Continua wants to ensure that everyone has access to affordable personal healthcare at all time – no matter their social situation, wealth or access to transport. And GCF wants to ensure that these connected healthcare devices will work on networks all over the world without problem.
Chuck Parker, executive director, Continua Health Alliance says “one of Continua’s key goals is to enable end-to-end interoperability for connected health solutions… by developing an effective process for testing these systems we’re expanding the ability of our members to deliver compelling products to consumers and healthcare providers that essentially become plug and play.”
What we think?
There are two ways of thinking about the phrase “mobile healthcare”. One of them involves healthcare moving onto existing mobile devices – this is the world of mHealth applications. The other involved healthcare devices themselves becoming mobile – which is what this release is about. There are rare instances of the two combining (see our report), but for the most part it’s either one or the other. I’m inclined to believe that mobilizing healthcare devices will be the more serious mHealth industry – mHealth apps have yet to prove they can be truly effective in the developing world.