Researchers to look at health benefits of ISO standards

We talk to the team that was recently awarded the ISO Research Grant to find out how their work will establish links between standards and improving healthcare for all.

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Barnaby  Lewis
By Barnaby Lewis
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The ISO Research Grant is part of ongoing efforts to establish a body of clear, scientific evidence of the way that standards make lives easier, safer and better. It was awarded for the first time this year, in 2021, through the CeiC (Centre for eIntegrated Care) at Dublin City University. We put five questions to the researchers Dr Matteo Zallio and Dr Subhashis Das to find out more about their work, and what it means for standardizers everywhere.

You’re going to be looking into the various ways in which International Standards support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (sDGs), focusing on SDG3 — what kinds of healthcare challenges will you focus on?

Matteo: The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer a baseline of guidance to provide a better future for human beings on Earth. We jointly decided with ISO to focus on healthcare challenges as they directly impact the lives of billions of people in the world. According to previous studies, we will be looking into collecting and analysing data on equity and diversity practices, capacity building initiatives, implementation and management approaches and coordination of activities for the delivery of healthcare services and deployment of digital health technologies. We aim to identify patterns that will inform about the impact of ISO technical standards across SDG 3.

How will you measure the impact of standards? There must be challenges in determining the influence of something that is integrated into, and often “hidden” within, a process?

Subhashis: Measuring the impact is normally context-dependent and several challenges are present. Our mixed-method approach, based on quantitative and qualitative data sampling collected from text-based search and expert stakeholders' involvement, has the potential to provide a rich, user-centric data set to inform how to define impact and determine the influence of certain technical standards in the domain of SDG 3. During the final stage of the project, the specific impact of health informatics standards will be quantified by associating expert stakeholder perceptions with practical implications of standards on European and international research projects.

So, your work will be divided into two distinct parts. In the first, you’ll be analysing text within standards for references to SDG 3 targets – how will you do that and what will it tell you?

Matteo: Firstly, we need to understand the context in which the technical standards are applied and publicly available. Therefore, the first part of our work is to perform a text-based analysis by using methods such as the keyword co-occurrence networks to allow for an efficient and clear understanding of which standards to include in the search and identify those that can provide meaningful information to inform the qualitative stage of the project.

Building on this, the second part of your work will be human-focused, directly with the ISO standards community. What sort of input are you hoping to get from them?

Subhashis: As mentioned earlier on, we believe in a people-centred approach. It is essential to verify with real people and the ISO-community that the selected technical standards have a direct impact on UN SDG 3. To this end we aim to partner with ISO experts involved in standards development in areas related to SDG 3 and develop a survey-based feedback collection method based on the findings of the previous part of the study.

Matteo: This study will offer the opportunity to engage with the community by verifying the appropriateness of the previous findings with experts who are extremely familiar with the technical standards and use them often in their daily working routine.

Could that approach be adapted to other areas in future, in terms of looking at the impact of International Standards on other SDGs?

Subhashis: We are looking forward to developing this study and collecting the results with the final goal of validating the method, process and results so they can be adopted in the future with other standards and with other UN SDGs.

Matteo: Additionally, we strongly believe that this study, other than supporting ISO and the expert community with evidence-based data, can illuminate the scientific and professional communities with metrics to help measure the impact of International Standards on other UN SDGs. We are honoured to have been selected by ISO among the worldwide community to develop this impactful project and help the ISO community to identify metrics to inform the impact of International Standards and to advance the knowledge of correlation between standards and the UN SDGs.

The ISO Research Grant is awarded every year, with calls for proposals for the 2022 award to be launched in January 2022. The research carried out by Drs Zallio and Das is expected to be completed in October 2022. 

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