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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Towards pervasive computing in health care – A literature review

Carsten Orwat1*, Andreas Graefe1 and Timm Faulwasser2

Author Affiliations

1 Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis), Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft (Karlsruhe Research Centre, Member of the Helmholtz Association); Address: P.O. Box 3640, D-76021 Karlsruhe, Germany

2 Institut für Automatisierungstechnik (Institute for Automatic Control), Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg (Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg); Address: P.O. Box 4120, D-39016 Magdeburg, Germany

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-26

Published: 19 June 2008



The evolving concepts of pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence are increasingly influencing health care and medicine. Summarizing published research, this literature review provides an overview of recent developments and implementations of pervasive computing systems in health care. It also highlights some of the experiences reported in deployment processes.


There is no clear definition of pervasive computing in the current literature. Thus specific inclusion criteria for selecting articles about relevant systems were developed. Searches were conducted in four scientific databases alongside manual journal searches for the period of 2002 to 2006. Articles included present prototypes, case studies and pilot studies, clinical trials and systems that are already in routine use.


The searches identified 69 articles describing 67 different systems. In a quantitative analysis, these systems were categorized into project status, health care settings, user groups, improvement aims, and systems features (i.e., component types, data gathering, data transmission, systems functions). The focus is on the types of systems implemented, their frequency of occurrence and their characteristics. Qualitative analyses were performed of deployment issues, such as organizational and personnel issues, privacy and security issues, and financial issues. This paper provides a comprehensive access to the literature of the emerging field by addressing specific topics of application settings, systems features, and deployment experiences.


Both an overview and an analysis of the literature on a broad and heterogeneous range of systems are provided. Most systems are described in their prototype stages. Deployment issues, such as implications on organization or personnel, privacy concerns, or financial issues are mentioned rarely, though their solution is regarded as decisive in transferring promising systems to a stage of regular operation. There is a need for further research on the deployment of pervasive computing systems, including clinical studies, economic and social analyses, user studies, etc.