The document (ISO/TR 14639) is being produced in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) with the aim of making International Standards more accessible to developing countries.

The design, deployment and maintenance of a national eHealth infrastructure can be a complex task, especially for newcomers. Scarce resources and IT expertise, together with limited access to best practice can result in systems that are not scalable or robust to meet long-term needs.

International Standards can help by providing globally harmonized specifications for establishing the architectural framework used to design eHealth systems, plan implementation, make build-or-buy decisions, decide on acquisitions and undertake related activities.

Attempting to describe a comprehensive framework, ISO/TR 14639 will reference wide-ranging Health Informatics standards such as existing ISO standards, the Health Metrics Network Framework and the Global Fund Monitoring and Evaluation Toolkit.

The projected ISO/TR 14639 will provide further guidance to help tackle the complexity of developing an IT infrastructure that supports and enhances health service, promotion, prevention, monitoring and evaluation.

“The majority of resource-impoverished countries lack national eHealth policies,” says Beatriz de Faria Leao, one of ISO/TR 14639’s project leaders, representing Brazil. “In their place, a multiplicity of vertical systems, often geared to individual diseases such as AIDS or malaria, co-exist without any common framework. This generates duplication and overlap in data collection and reporting both at national and international levels.”

ISO/TR 14639 will be useful for countries looking to harmonize existing systems, as well as those who are only beginning to use IT in health-related applications. “It is important that countries that are only getting started with health informatics implement a harmonized system to profit fully from the advantages of eHealth, and ensure interoperability and long-term goals” recommends Patrick Whitaker, Technical Officer, WHO Healthcare Informatics Unit.

ISO/TR 14639 will be published in two parts.

The first part, ISO/TR 14639-1, Health informatics – eHealth Enterprise Architecture for emerging and developing countries – Part 1: Environmental Scan, will offer an overview of existing eHealth architecture and International Standards, and address specific activities such as monitoring and evaluation, surveillance, public health, management, and policy functions.

The second part, ISO/TR 14639-2, Health informatics – eHealth Enterprise Architecture for emerging and developing countries – Part 2: Business Requirements, will provide a roadmap for identifying business requirements to define an eHealth enterprise architecture.

ISO/TR 14639 will promote the construction of eHealth systems that facilitate access to relevant research, information and education materials for managers, providers, researchers and the general population. It will also help improve health service delivery, support the work of health professionals and contribute to health promotion and preventative interventions in resource-poor environments. The document will be an essential resource to system designers, developers and implementers.

ISO/TR 14639 is being developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 215, Health informatics, working group WG 8, Business requirements for Electronic Health Records, which currently includes experts from: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Turkey and the USA.