Cnossen, whose day job is with Intel as its director of personal health enabling, said he hopes that at least 10 Continua-certified devices will be on the market by year-end. Cnossen said he thinks that there will be at least one device in each of the five key product lines. A second version of Continua guidelines covering wide-area-network communications could also be ready by year-end, he said.
Unlike the federally supported Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, Continua receives no government funds. CCHIT also charges electronic health-record vendors on a per-product basis for certifying their systems. Continua does not, Cnossen said.
Instead, to cover testing, certification and other operating expenses, Continua relies on membership dues that afford different benefits and voting privileges. It charges $5,000 for its “liaison” and “contributor” classes of membership, $35,000 for a “promoter” class and an amount Cnossen declined to reveal for a “director.”
With an aging U.S. population, sales of home health-monitoring devices are expected to soar. Cnossen said that market research reports estimate the market is about $3 billion in 2009 and is expected to more than double to $7.7 billion in just three years.
Cambridge Consultants, which designs and develops electronic products for manufacturers, showcased at a trade show in Lisbon, Portugal, last month a pilot asthma inhaler coupled with its proprietary Vena wireless platform. Cambridge is adapting that platform to the Continua standards. Company officials could not give a precise date when the device would reach the market, but indicated it would be available soon.
Pamela McNamara, president of U.S. operations for Cambridge Consultants, Boston, said that with the wireless system, “individuals can track themselves. The inhaler device is programmed to give a reminder to the patient to take a puff and records the puff and transmits it via Bluetooth to a portal so it can be tracked.”
On the receiving end of the transmission could be the patient’s own personal health-record system, a caregiver—the parent of a child who is a patient, or, conversely, the adult son or daughter of an elderly parent who is the patient—a physician’s EHR, or a monitoring service.
One other potential use for the technology in addition to patient care is to assist in documenting medication use for clinical trials, McNamara said.
“Are they taking the inhaler puff according to protocols? Where you don’t have the connectivity, compliance to protocol can be down in the 11% to 20% range, but with the connectivity you can get the compliance in the 80% range,” she said.
Williamson said that Cambridge became actively engaged with the development of Continua standards about a year ago.
The inhaler, Williamson said, will be able to connect via the short-range, Bluetooth wireless telecommunications standard either to a cell phone in the user’s pocket or purse, or to a wireless receiver in a patient’s home. For now, Williamson sees home receivers as the likely connecting points for the devices, but “the future of this technology is using the mobile technology as the hub.”
“We’re also coming on to the Version 2 standards coming out this year with a peak-flow meter and a medication monitoring standard that’s emerging for devices such as the asthma inhaler.” The peak-flow meter tells asthma patients how much air they are moving in and out of their lungs.
The digital home health medical device market has a lot of latent demand for products that can communicate with PHRs and remote monitoring services, Williamson said. “What Continua presents a potential for is completely unlocking that. It will enable service providers to connect to any Continua-certified device. It brings an economy of scale to the whole market and reduces the barriers to entry.”
A version of this story initially appeared in this week's edition of Modern Healthcare magazine.
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