World Metrology Day

No better measure for health.

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From research into diseases to the development of medical devices and treatments, the healthcare sector is heavily reliant on quality-assured measurement. Errors in quantities of medication compositions, or the size of an implant, for example, can have disastrous effects. “Measurement for Health” is the theme of this year’s World Metrology Day, which is celebrated every year on 20 May. Its aim is to recognize the life-saving importance of measurement when it comes to health.

Internationally agreed ways of measuring and representing results help to ensure medical products work safely and effectively and that the dosage of medication and their constituents is as intended. Standardized measurement is also essential to the interoperability of medical equipment and devices, and to the sharing of information.

ISO has hundreds of International Standards that provide agreed definitions and methods of measurement. One example is the series of standards for the identification of medicinal products. These are used to ensure consistent labelling and terminology, the absence of which could lead to incorrect doses or compositions of medication. They also provide the basis for data collection and the exchange of information related to the characteristics of medicinal products, essential for commercial and regulatory purposes.

Underpinning this process is consensus on the way of expressing the results of measurements. ISO 11240, Health informatics – Identification of medicinal products – Data elements and structures for the unique identification and exchange of units of measurement [1], is a key standard in this series as it ensures that terms and identifiers used to represent units of measurement are mapped in a standardized way to the underlying metrological concepts.

It provides rules for documenting the composition and strength of medicinal products, specifically in the context of medicinal product identification, defines the requirements for the representation of units of measurement in coded form and provides structures and rules for mapping between different unit vocabularies and language translations.

Accurate and comparable measurement requires consistency when it comes to methods and definitions, which is why the International System of Units, also known as the SI brochure and published by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), exists.

The ISO 80000 series of standards for quantities and units is a vital element of the SI brochure as it provides harmonized terms, definitions and symbols of quantities and units used in science and engineering, providing a unified language for communicating accurate measurement information between scientists, engineers and anyone involved in measurement. All these standards, along with hundreds of standards dedicated to health, are available from your national ISO member or the ISO Store.

  1. ISO 11240 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 215, Health informatics, whose secretariat is held by ANSI, ISO’s member for the USA.
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