eHealth is a broad term, and refers to the use of information and communications technologies in healthcare.

What is eHealth?

eHealth covers a lot of territory, which is why digital health industry experts often contest exactly what the term means – and to add to the confusion, it’s also frequently used as a synonym for Health IT.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research defines eHealth as:

“…an emerging field in the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business, referring to health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies.

In a broader sense, the term characterizes not only a technical development, but also a state-of-mind, a way of thinking, an attitude, and a commitment for networked, global thinking, to improve healthcare locally, regionally, and worldwide by using information and communication technology.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines eHealth as:

“…the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in support of the health and health-related fields including healthcare, health surveillance and health education, knowledge and research.”

The European Commission defines eHealth as:

“…the use of modern information and communication technologies to meet needs of citizens, patients, healthcare professionals, healthcare providers, as well as policy makers.”

Depending on how people choose to define it, eHealth encompasses a wide variety of sub-domains of digital health such as:

How is eHealth used?

Due to the extensive permeation of information and communications technologies, there are endless potential applications for eHealth. Some of its broadest applications include:

  • Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR) which include patient records, e-prescribing, clinical administration systems, e-booking and digital imaging & archiving systems.
  • Telemedicine and telehealth systems that transmit medical information for diagnostic purposes resulting in lower costs, increased patient access and optimized use of digital health assets.
  • Consumer informatics applications that include thousands of health-oriented websites and hundreds of thousands of mobile health apps that are becoming increasingly popular.
  • Clinical health IT systems such as radiology, nursing health IT systems, computer-assisted diagnostics, medical imaging, and surgery training and planning systems that help physicians provide more accurate diagnoses and treatments.
  • Integrated regional, national and international networks that allow health services to be deployed in remote and rural areas.
  • Online health IT systems – such as health portals – that are widely used to disseminate health information to promote healthy behaviours in patients and consumers.
  • Specialised eHealth systems used by researchers for public health data collection and analysis – such as biostatical programs for infectious diseases, drug development, and outcomes analysis.
  • eHealth tools and technologies for health IT support systems – such as pharmaceutical supply chain management, scheduling systems, billing systems, hospital administrative and management systems, and other clinical decision support processes.

eHealth nuviun

eHealth technologies improve transparency and accountability in care processes and facilitate projection of care services across boundaries.

eHealth technologies improve access to digital health technologies by reducing physical barriers such as geographic location or disability.

eHealth systems reduce clinical errors and improve evidence-based medicine by increasing the accuracy of diagnoses and appropriateness of treatment approaches.

They support patient-centric care delivery through informed decision-making based on clinical evidence and patient-specific data.

By streamlining processes and improving cost-efficiency, they reduce waiting times and wastage and improve optimal utilization of digital health assets.

Current Market and Industry Trends in eHealth

Estimates of eHealth market size vary widely depending on how eHealth is defined. According to the report “Integrating Healthcare: The Role and Value of Mobile Operators in eHealth” published by GSMA, the global eHealth market is expected to grow to $160 billion in 2015 from $96 billion in 2010, at an average growth rate of 12-16 percent.

Factors Driving the eHealth Market Include:

  • Increasing participation of consumers in digital health outside of hospital settings
  • Increasing awareness and acceptance by healthcare professionals
  • Evidence of efficacy of eHealth technologies
  • Decreasing costs of deployment in some technologies such as software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud computing and hosted services
  • Favorable regulatory climates and improved support for interoperability
  • Pressure to decrease healthcare costs
  • Rise in aging population and incidences of chronic diseases

Factors Inhibiting the Growth of the eHealth Market Include:

  • Continued resistance to change from healthcare professionals
  • Inconclusive proof of efficacy of some eHealth solutions
  • Complexity of systems
  • Lack of supporting infrastructure
  • High costs of health IT tools and technologies
  • High maintenance and service costs
  • Interoperability issues
  • Regulatory concerns regarding privacy and security
  • Shortage of trained professionals
  • Poor standard healthcare protocols
  • Low budget allocations in hospitals for eHealth solutions
  • Poor legacy systems

However it’s defined, eHealth is making a big impact across the globe.

As the proof of its value for patients, providers, and healthcare systems continues to accumulate, this broad digital health field will expand and evolve, making an even bigger mark on healthcare around the world.

External Resources

  1. Healthcare IT News
  2. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
  3. HIMSS Analytics
  4. HIMSS Middle East
  5. HIMSS Global Solutions
  6. HIMSS Interoperability Showcase
  7. HIMSS Media
  8. mHealth News
  9. Government Health IT
  10. Fierce Health IT
  11. European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare IT Industry
  12. eHealth Industries Innovation Center
  13. Open Clinical Knowledge Management for medical Care
  14. Journal of Medical Internet Research
  15. World Health Organization’s eHealth Portal

Relevant Blogs

  1. Improving Quality of Care by Improving Continuity of Care: How Health IT makes it Possible
  2. 8 Examples of How m-Health is Increasing Access to Healthcare Around the World
  3. How mHealth is Changing the Healthcare Ecosystem
  4. Using Social Media to Increase Healthcare Engagement
  5. e-Health and Telemedicine: 5 Examples of Growth in the GCC Today
  6. Big Data’s Big Impact on Healthcare

Relevant News Articles

  1. Global EHR/EMR Market to Expand to $22.3 Billion by 2015, Report Says
  2. Saudi Arabia is Building a Massive Nationwide eHealth Network
  3. Use of Mobile Technology by Physicians in Healthcare Organizations is Increasing,HIMSS Survey Says
  4. HIMSS14: Health IT is Critical to Transform Rural Healthcare
  5. Nursing Informatics is Adding Value to Healthcare but Faces Many Challenges, Experts at HIMSS14 Say
  6. HIMSS14 Kick-Starts on Meaningful Use – Patient Safety, Privacy & Security Concerns in Health IT
  7. Now Brush Smarter with the Oral-B’s Bluetooth-Connected Interactive Electric Toothbrush
  8. Telemedicine Can Generate Savings by Reducing Hospitalizations of Nursing Home Residents
  9. Smartphone Medical Apps to Turn Into Cancer-Detecting Tools
  10. Telemedicine Effectiveness: Teledermatology is as Reliable and Efficient as In-Person Consultation
  11. Electronic Telepathy and Telekinesis Not Distant Dreams Anymore
  12. First-of-its-kind Diabetes Telehealth Services Project in Mississippi May Have Lessons for the UAE
  13. GE Launches Industrial Internet and Cloud-Based Solutions at the Arab Health Congress 2014
  14. du’s Wellness App Creates Waves at the Arab Health Congress 2014
  15. UAE’s Big Push for Digital Health Technology at Arab Health 2014
  16. Big Data’s Big Splash at the Arab Health Congress 2014