ETSI Project (EP) eHEALTH Activity Report 2020

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 critical new 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 drawn attention to the potential of AI/eHealth to reduce the time required for:

  • Design and testing of new vaccines and assessment of existing drugs
  • Tracking and tracing the spread of the disease
  • Testing followed by rapid decision making for treatments as new cases appear
  • Monitoring the success of isolation and lock down policies assessment of economic and societal costs to different pathways for coping with the virus
  • Enabling accurate statistical analysis of rapidly changing international situations where data such as mortality rates is collected in different formats
  • Supporting the work of public health authorities and governments to make effective policy decisions.

In 2020 the global coronavirus pandemic highlighted the need for global ICT standards to be ‘eHealth-ready’, capable of supporting rapid, secure data exchange to support governments and epidemiologists in the event of possible future outbreaks. Individuals are also turning to ICT devices to enable home working and protect their families at a time of unprecedented change.

Published in May 2020, ETSI White Paper #33 authored by eHEALTH officials highlighted the importance of developing ICT standards to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper issues a ‘call to arms’ to standards bodies and their constituent members to ensure greater harmonization of the ICT supply chain.

In August 2020 EP eHEALTH published an update of its Technical Report [TR 103 477] on ‘Standardization use cases for eHealth’. The report presents several typical use cases in the eHealth domain and their analysis to identify gaps in standardization. This analysis covers aspects of link connectivity, network interconnectivity, semantic and syntactic interoperability, security (risks and provisions) and the existence of standards to meet each of these aspects. It also identifies the roles of various primary, secondary and tertiary actors in these use cases. The use case examples covered in the report draw on industry publications, completed FP7 and H2020 projects and the work of other ETSI Technical Bodies. Work continued during the year on further updates to the report.

Work also progressed on development of a new standard considering applications and data recording requirements for eHealth. Its objective is to identify the requirements for recording eHealth events, specifically those from ICT-based eHealth devices and from health practitioners.

During the year, eHealth cooperated with the newly formed ISG E4P and other ETSI Technical Bodies, including TC ATTM WG SDMC, ISG OEU, TC SmartBAN, TC Smart M2M, TC ERM TG30, ISG CIM and SC USER. The worsening pandemic and the intense interest generated by the medical issues led to the formation of a ‘Hub for Health’ – a forum for all ETSI groups with health-related interests to address issues raised by the crisis. Liaison was also maintained with other ETSI Technical Bodies in areas including IoT security, privacy, safety and SAREF mapping to eHealth developments.

 LOOK OUT FOR IN 2020 – EP eHEALTH WORK IN PROGRESS:

  • ETSI Standard (ES) to identify data recording requirements for eHealth events, i.e. those from ICT-based eHealth devices and from health practitioners
  • eHealth extended roadmap – to identify work item objectives, stakeholders and liaison partners
  • Revision to Technical Report TR 103 477 on standardization use cases for eHealth: analysis covers aspects of link connectivity, network interconnectivity, semantic and syntactic interoperability, security (risks and provisions), and the existence of standards to meet each aspect
  • Revision to TR on standardization use cases for eHealth