Global CTOs call for faster progress on e-health standards


A meeting of 21 CTOs from leading companies in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry has urged ITU to accelerate technical standardization work in the field of e-health.

CTOs stressed that reliable, interoperable standards are key to providing patients and health professionals with the means to utilize remote consultation services, advanced ICT-based diagnostic procedures and electronic health information services.

The meeting, held at ITU head offices in Geneva during ITU Telecom World 2011 on October 25, agreed that international coordination on standards will be vital, and that growth in telemedicine services will also demand aggressive roll-out of broadband networks.

Cisco and Scottish Centre for Tele-health and NHS Scotland launch the world's first Cisco HealthPresence trial at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The CTOs encouraged ITU, as the world’s leading developer of global ICT standards, to intensify its involvement by developing essential e-health infrastructure standards, and by cooperating with other standards bodies to create reliable, secure and interoperable e-health solutions.

Dr Hamadoun Toure, ITU secretary general, ITU said in a media release: “E-health will bring cutting-edge medical advice to people living in remote, underserved areas, and will revolutionize access to health services in the developing world. ITU is actively working with all parties to create the frameworks for these technologies to be rolled-out on a solid bedrock of broadband deployment.”

On the topic of the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT-12), CTOs urged that any revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) maintain the necessary flexibility to enable continued growth in services. To provide a strong basis for continued growth, the CTOs believe the resulting ITRs should reflect technology-neutral, high-level principles, and should be stable enough to reduce the need for future updates.

Participants also encouraged ITU to continue promoting the key role of ICTs in efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and urged ITU to push this agenda at the upcoming United Nations climate change negotiations (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.

They praised ITU’s current work in the field, referencing in particular the work of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector on methodologies to assess the environmental impact of ICT.

Regarding climate change adaption, and informed by recent events in Japan, CTOs identified two crucial areas for further work: a disaster relief system allowing individuals to notify a victim’s friends, family or employer; and a disaster relief guidance mechanism to help victims reach safety. ITU is already actively engaged in work in this field, including emergency communication systems to provide early warning of impending disasters.

In the area of technical standards for fixed networks, the meeting reached an important agreement on the need for a release-based approach. CTOs recommended that ITU take a leading role in the release production, coordinating the activities of the most important fora and standards-development organizations (SDOs).

They also welcomed the increasing role of developing countries in global standards development, and recognized the importance those countries attach to issues such as broadband, electromagnetic compatibility, quality of service, sustainable rural communications, and affordability. They pledged to develop partnerships with developing countries to strengthen national standards capacities.

Regular CTO meetings cement ITU’s relationship with ICT industry leaders, ensuring top-level needs are taken into account in ongoing work. The strategic-level debate engendered by the meetings provides invaluable insights into the future course of the ICT industry.