Bluetooth group looks to aid health device interoperability

A Bluetooth SIG initiative announced this week takes aim at medical device interoperability through the use of consumer electronics products. The organization has announced the formation of a Medical Devices Working Group comprised of 19 member companies including IBM, Intel, Motorola, Nonin Medical, Philips Electronics and Welch Allyn, according to a release.

The group will work together to create and 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 ensure a comprehensive user experience and optimized interoperability between health-related devices and personal consumer electronics products such as mobile phones, PCs and PDAs where Bluetooth technology is already common.

"Health-related devices in the home, such as weight scales, blood pressure monitors and exercise equipment, which implement the new standard will be able to send information wirelessly to Bluetooth enabled PCs or cell phones so that users can monitor their health information or share this information with a doctor or fitness coach anywhere in the world," said Robert Hughes, chair of the new Bluetooth SIG Medical Devices Working Group and a senior wireless standards architect in Intel's Digital Health Group. "The Working Group believes it can make a difference in the lives of people, especially those with chronic conditions or those striving to improve their fitness, by creating a Bluetooth profile that enables medical, health, and fitness devices to better connect patient with provider. In addition to helping people lead healthier lives, it represents a powerful business opportunity for companies creating Bluetooth enabled devices in a large and growing market segment."

The Working Group will begin 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 currently exist, the method of Bluetooth communications used is proprietary and therefore not usually interoperable with devices from other manufacturers.

"With the price of healthcare continually rising, the need exists to cut medical expenses. Many of the use cases supported by the Medical Device Profile will minimize the need for costly hospital visits and enable early detection of potential health problems reducing expensive treatments," said Michael Foley, PhD, executive director, Bluetooth SIG. "Because of its worldwide availability, existing pervasiveness in mobile phones and laptops along with low power, low cost and security features, Bluetooth technology is ideally suited for medical devices that will provide a better quality of life for patients while reducing the cost of healthcare."