March 21, 2014


IEEE 11073 Personal Health Data Standards: New Era of Health Devices


Personal health devices are devices that allow people (patients as well as potentially healthy persons) to monitor their health conditions by themselves without frequent visit of doctors. Personal health devices play a major role to help people to provide closer monitoring of their health with less cost. Almost everybody has personal health devices like a blood pressure measure, a thermometer or a weighing scale at home.

Now think if these Personal Health Devices have connectivity features with some standard data format to send data to cell phones or personal computers and from there to the doctor or the hospital, how useful it is to ease the burden of health care professionals as human population increasing rapidly and to people cope with their conditions within their own homes.

To achieve this communication feature, some standards are required.  It is good that all personal health devices follow the same standards otherwise data is captured using specialized equipment which results in considerable expense. That is where IEEE 11073 PHD standards family comes into the picture.

Many vendors provide a communication facility in their personal health devices, but with their own proprietary mechanism. These devices are not interoperable. There has to be a body to regulate and promote the concept of interoperability in personal health devices so that every device follows the same standards and data provided by one device can be used by another device in a more meaningful manner. In an effort to support the concept of interoperability, some healthcare and technology companies have joined together to form a nonprofit organization. One of the objectives of this organization is to promote these standards as well as certify against them. Certified devices are available in the market that provides assurance of interoperability.

IEEE 11073 PHD standards family:

The IEEE 11073 PHD standards family is based around two types of standards:

  1. Framework standard, which defines the generic data types, message types and communication model. It supports any number of device specialization standards. Following is the framework standard:
  • IEEE 11073 : 20601
  1. Device specialization standard, which defines the set of classes and constants necessary to support a given device class. At present, following device specialization standards are exist:
  • IEEE 11073 : 10404 for Pulse Oximeter
  • IEEE 11073 : 10407 for Blood Pressure Monitor
  • IEEE 11073 : 10408 for Thermometer
  • IEEE 11073 : 10415 for Weighing Scale
  • IEEE 11073 : 10417 for Glucose Meter
  • IEEE 11073 : 10420 for Body Composition Analyzer
  • IEEE 11073 : 10421 for Peak Flow
  • IEEE 11073 : 10441 for Cardiovascular Fitness and Activity Monitor
  • IEEE 11073 : 10442 for Strength Fitness Equipment
  • IEEE 11073 : 10471 for Independent Living Activity Hub
  • IEEE 11073 : 10472 for Medication Monitor

Use Cases:

There may be several use cases where this concept of interoperability can play a major role:

  • There may be a case when a person has a weight loss machine (like a treadmill) at home, but need guidance from a gym instructor to know the correct and effective way of usage on a daily basis. If the weight loss machine has the interoperability feature, data (like weight, count of running cycles) can be sent to the gym instructor on the basis of which gym instructor can provide the suitable guidance.
  • Nowadays almost all of us want our basic health checkup (like a blood pressure test, blood sugar test etc.) regularly. For that purpose, we need to visit a hospital or doctor’s clinic. But due to our busy schedule most of the time this health checkup is skipped by us. Hospitals can offer paid or free service. Almost all of us have blood pressure measurement, blood sugar measurement machines at home. If these personal health devices have the concept of interoperability, one can measure and share the data to hospital or doctor from home, know the status of his/her health and advice from a doctor.
  • There may be a case when a family member is suffering from a critical disease (like cancer) and family takes care of the member at home but there is a need to share of his/her health data with doctor/diagnostic center at regular time intervals. This can be possible by the concept of interoperability.
  • Service providers (like telecom) may offer a service in which they can provide an application which can collect data from personal health devices of users in standard format, send that data to their pre-defined doctors or hospitals and provide necessary advice to users. This application can be downloadable or in-build in the handset. Service providers can provide this service free or can charge some amount from users to avail this service.
  • Government/Private health organizations can also use the concept of interoperability for research purpose like from which disease people get affected majorly. These organizations can get standardized health data from hospitals, health institutes or doctor’s clinics.
  • Schools may also implement this concept to provide instant treatment to students present in school and if any of them go ill during school hours. In such situations they can provide suffered student health data to the registered hospital/doctor and get necessary advice to take immediate preventive action.
  • Ambulances may also implement the concept of interoperability to provide necessary information about patient health status to hospitals when they are on the way with patients. On the basis of the information provided by ambulance, hospital can be prepared to handle the case (like hospital can ready the operation theatre in case of operation required).


In the near future, interoperability can be the main feature available in almost all personal health medical devices. Many healthcare and technology companies are working in this area. Even some of them have products ready on available device specialization standards. Device specialization standards for other personal health devices are in the preparation phase..Read more about HCL's healthcare business solutions here.