VITAL (ISO 11073)

Open Communication Standard for Medical Equipment


Vital Architecture
© Fraunhofer IIS

Vital Architecture

Modern medicine, especially intensive care medicine, requires equipment that automatically interacts to monitor and treat patients. Because various manufacturer equipment relies on different interfaces and transmission protocols, this communication is often not possible.

One way to address this issue is through open system architectures and standardized communication protocols. One of the first results of these efforts is the ENV 13734/35 suite of CEN standards, also known as “VITAL“, an acronym for “Vital Signs Information Representation“, the description used by the “European Standards“ project.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS has been helping to advance the development and implementation of this standard at the national (DIN) and global (ISO 11073) level for several years.

VITAL – An Open Communication Standard

VITAL Application Scenario Patient Monitor
© Fraunhofer IIS

VITAL Application Scenario Patient Monitor

In describing the equipment- and manufacturer-independent representation and transmission of vital signs, VITAL defines a high-level communication model that allows access to the data. A key element here is the real-time transmission of the vital parameters, as well as automatic configuration and synchronization of the interconnected equipment.

The potential fields of application include capturing biosignals from individual diagnostic equipment and displaying the corresponding curves in real-time on remote monitors (intensive care stations), sleep laboratories, heart catheter measurement instruments or even the simultaneous capture, monitoring and case-by-case display of a range of biosignals from multiple patients across a network.


VITAL Service Model
© Fraunhofer IIS

VITAL Service Model

The “VITAL“ communication architecture is based on the ISO management system “agent/manager“-concept. It defines the application layer in the ISO/OSI layer model, thus  guaranteeing the flexibility to select the underlying transport protocol. This allows “VITAL“ to be used with Bluetooth, TCP/IP, IrDA or other transmission systems.

The automated ad hoc equipment communication feature requires that all communicated information elements be clearly implemented in corresponding codes. To do this “VITAL“ relies on an object-oriented information model.

A “medical data information base“ (“MDIB“) on both the agent and manager side of the system contains application-specific object and attribute instances that are defined in the model. In an extensive nomenclature, unique codes were defined for all of the model elements, equipment types, dimensions, measurements, medical measurement values and conditions used in the “MDIB“. In order to clearly denote these codes for developers and users, a special “systematic name“ was introduced that permits distinct semantic correlation across disciplinary and linguistic borders.

The middle figure depicts an example of the “VITAL“-specific modeling of medical equipment. In this case the model displays thermometer and blood pressure watch values, plus patient-specific data, in a corresponding object hierarchy and then creates an overall system.

Using plug-and-play, any combination of “VITAL“-compatible equipment can be transformed into an interoperable unit. In order to satisfy the wide range of application requirements, from intensive care to home care, the highly-scalable “VITAL“ standard can be implemented with a simple, low-resource “polling mode profile“ or for maximum flexibility with a “base line profile“. “VITAL“ basically establishes the underlying communication behavior, leaving the actual implementation and application design up the programmer. For the information modeling of commonly-used equipment or functions, such as an EKG, corresponding “device profile“ standards help ensure interoperability.

User and Equipment Manufacturer Benefits

With “VITAL“, users can design their own system by choosing their preferred equipment from different manufacturers. Equipment manufacturers reap the benefits of having an easily expanded product portfolio. Simple software and hardware enhancements can turn existing stand-alone devices into network-capable equipment, thus making it easier to recognize and correlate various patient data in order to detect critical conditions and situations.

Our Services

Fraunhofer IIS offers a wide range of customer-specific services that help manufacturers of medical equipment and information systems develop and enhance connectivity and interoperability mechanisms for their products. We have modules compatible with the ISO/IEEE CEM 11073 “VITAL“ standard, which can be acquired on a license basis. Our services include engineering and system integration, application development for standard platforms and embedded systems and also services and tools for conformity and interoperability testing. All of these services are backed by our extensive experience in the field of software and chip development.

More Information

Brochure “Medical Communication and Biosignal Processing“

Download Section

Each document, such as application note, brochure or others, and each video, can be found in our download section.

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