Bluetooth working group established for health IT

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has established a working group to promote interoperability between devices that can be used in the health industry.

The Medical Devices Working Group is made up of 19 member companies including IBM, Intel, Motorola, Nonin Medical, Philips Electronics and Welch Allyn.

By working together the group aims to ratify a Bluetooth Medical Device Profile that will expand the use of Bluetooth technology into the medical, health and fitness markets.

The new profile will promote interoperability between health-related devices and personal consumer electronics products such as mobile phones, PCs and PDAs where Bluetooth technology is already common.

Chairman of the new group and senior wireless standard architect at Intel’s digital health group, Robert Hughes, said the creation of a new standard will allow devices such as weight scales, blood pressure monitors and exercise equipment to send information wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled PCs or mobile phones so that users can monitor their health information or share it with a doctor or fitness coach anywhere in the world.

“The working group believes it can make a difference in the lives of people, especially those with chronic conditions; it also represents a powerful business opportunity for companies creating Bluetooth-enabled devices in a large and growing market segment,” Hughes said.

The Working Group will start work immediately, drafting the specification this year, with the new profile available for use in devices in the first half of 2007.

The completed profile will run on all current versions of Bluetooth technology including the future high-speed version.

Although Bluetooth-enabled medical devices already exist, Hughes said the method of communications currently in use is proprietary and not interoperable with devices from other manufacturers.

With the price of healthcare continually rising, Bluetooth SIG executive director Michael Foley said there is a need to cut medical expenses.

“This device profile will minimize the need for costly hospital visits and enable early detection of potential health problems which ultimately reduces expensive treatments,” he said.

Bluetooth can be used in a wide range of scenarios. For example, a patient at home can receive reminders to take medication using a Bluetooth medication dispenser. If the patient has not taken medication after several reminders, an alert with the time and the medicine missed can be sent to their caregiver who can take the appropriate action.



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