Technical Committee (TC) eHEALTH Activity Report 2021

Chair: Suno Wood, eG4U

Responsible for coordinating ETSI’s activities in the eHealth domain, identifying gaps where further standardization activities might be required and addressing those gaps which are not the responsibility of other ETSI bodies.

eHealth includes the application of ICT (information and communications technologies) across the whole range of functions that affect the health sector. It promises to improve the quality of healthcare, reduce costs, and help to foster independent living. However its successful implementation relies on the widespread digitization of all sectors of society.

Although an increasing number of patients enjoy access services such as telecare and telemonitoring, the use of telemedicine is still very limited. One of the problems currently hindering the development of the virtual clinic is a lack of interoperability. Standards thus have a key role to play in assisting the development of new eHealth products and services.

eHealth systems include tools for health authorities and professionals, from national to international, from the doctor to the hospital manager, nurses, data processing specialists, social security administrators and - of course - the patients, as well as patient-centric health systems for individuals and the community. The primary concern is to support diagnosis and treatment but ICT systems are also essential to the financial management and efficient daily operation of any state or privately-run health care provider. Examples include health information networks, electronic health records, telemedicine services, personal wearable and portable communicable systems including those for medical implants, health portals, and many other ICT-based tools assisting disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, health monitoring and lifestyle management.

A further critical role for eHealth is emerging with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into many areas where eHealth presents important use cases. In particular the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the potential of AI/eHealth in areas including: the design and testing of new vaccines; tracking and tracing the spread of disease; rapid decision making for treatments as new cases appear; monitoring the success of isolation and lock down policies, and an assessment of economic and societal costs; and supporting the work of public health authorities and governments to make effective policy decisions.

TC eHEALTH has primary responsibility to:

  • collect and define Health ICT related requirements from relevant stakeholders and to input the requirements to the concerned ETSI Technical Bodies, 
  • identify gaps, where existing ETSI standards do not fulfil the Health ICT requirements, and suggest further standardization activities to fill those gaps, 
  • develop Health ICT related deliverables in all areas not covered by existing system specific and horizontal Technical Bodies or other SDO’s, 
  • ensure the co-ordination of Health ICT related activities with the relevant ETSI Technical Bodies in order to avoid duplication of effort and deliverables, 
  • ensure that activities within TC eHEALTH are co-ordinated with other European and International Standards making bodies to avoid duplication of effort, 
  • co-ordinate and represent ETSI positions on Health ICT related issues.

Within ETSI, TC eHEALTH collaborates directly with several other technical bodies including:

  • TC SmartM2M and oneM2M on SAREF for eHealth and Ageing Well, and on Asynchronous Contact Tracing in the context of Covid-19 and IoT,
  • TC SmartBAN SAREF for Wearables and SAREF for eHealth and Ageing Well,
  • TC CYBER on Security, Safety and Privacy,
  • In relation to the Covid-19 crisis TC eHEALTH also collaborates with TC ERM TG30, SC USER, TC HF, TC ATTM, ISG OEU and ISG CIM.

In September 2021, the ETSI Board approved conversion of the former ETSI Project (EP) eHEALTH to a Technical Committee (TC), with a continuation of its existing eHEALTH work programme.

September also marked publication of an ETSI Special Report SR 003 809 V1.1.1 V1.1.1 titled ‘eHEALTH; The role of ICT to enable Health crisis management and recovery; Responding to the 2019 SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic’. Examining the standardization actions of ETSI and other groups in response to the pandemic, the report discusses where ICT standards may play a role in future mitigations. A revision was prepared in December, anticipating publication in early 2022.

During the year work meanwhile launched on new Technical Report describing a Presence preserving proximity function trigger (3PFT). Its goal is the design of a multi-input privacy protected presence-aware function triggering framework for use on smartphones and other IoT-devices. This can be employed for a variety of eHealth uses whilst a visitor is present at a public venue.

Investigations continued into use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in eHealth applications, and work on data recording requirements (Electronic Health Record) for eHealth. This activity reflected earlier cooperation with the ETSI Board/OCG sub-group for AI (OCG AI) in production of the existing White Paper #34 on AI Artificial Intelligence and future directions for ETSIArtificial Intelligence and future directions for ETSI, originally published in 2020.

Following completion of its mission, ETSI’s Industry Specification Group on Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection (ISG E4P) group closed in 2021. Its deliverables were subsequently taken over for maintenance by TC eHEALTH, who now curates the five Group Specifications and Group Reports published by ISG E4P during its lifetime.