Lack of device and system interoperability limiting use of personal health technology

4 May 2011

Failure to address interoperability has been identified as a major challenge for the growing personal health solutions market, according to a report by the SmartPersonalHealth project.

 The report, Enabling smart integrated care: Recommendations for fostering greater interoperability of personal health systems, contains recommendations for the advancement towards an interoperable personal health ecosystem.

One of the key recommendations is that the buyers of personal health systems need to understand and value interoperability, and demand it from suppliers.

“The project partners share the belief that if Europe wants to reap the full benefit of personal health systems, health stakeholders must understand the benefits of interoperability, and be empowered to demand those systems from vendors”, says Veli Stroetmann, researcher at Empirica. “Only if there are buyers who demand interoperable systems, vendors will bring them to market.”

'Personal health system' is a summary term to connote devices and applications, some converging from the consumer electronics world, which have enormous potential to empower patients, improve quality of life, and realise cost benefits for Europe’s beleaguered health systems. 

Examples include pedometers to monitor personal activity, Wi-Fi-enabled weight scales and sensors for the homecare of patients with chronic diseases, and smart phone apps that allow individuals control over their fitness and diet regime.  

Personal health systems are slowly coming onto the market and are being recommended by doctors and health insurers to help us all monitor our health and wellness. They are a key element of the growth of eHealth in Europe.

Their full benefit can only be realised if they are interoperable — that is, if a device from one vendor works easily and seamlessly with other eHealth applications.

To advance their interoperability and market adoption, SmartPersonalHealth recommends:

  •  equal standing for those guidelines and standards developed by private consortia and fora with those from official standard making bodies;
  •  public/private partnerships for education and training to promote better understanding and implementation of personal health systems;
  •  meaningful financial incentives that reward the procurement of interoperable solutions; and
  •  legal empowerment for procurers to insert interoperability requirements in their tenders.

"We appreciate the good work from the consortium and will take their recommendations into consideration as we look at fostering  interoperability of personal health systems in line with the Digital Agenda for Europe,” says Benoit Abeloos, Project Officer in the ICT for Health unit of DG Information Society.

The SmartPersonalHealth project is a Support Action project partially funded by the Directorate-General Information Society of the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme.

Further information

“Enabling smart integrated care: Recommendations for fostering greater interoperability of personal health systems” is available, along with more information about the project and individual reports from all stakeholder workshops, at the project website at


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