Online healthcare refers to the tools and services that use information and communication technologies to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and management of people’s health and lifestyle.
However, you won’t find a short answer to the question: “What is eHealth?” simply because it’s still an evolving field. It brings together health services, medical technology, and business data, including the latest internet and mobile technologies.
There’s hardly a person who doesn’t want to be healthy and in shape. However, this proves to be quite tricky due to the required commitment, stress involved, and lack of time and resources.
Fortunately, eHealth has the potential and resources to enhance access to healthcare and improve its quality. This, in turn, leads to an overall increase in the efficiency of various medical services.
For example, wearables are among some of the most innovative eHealth technologies. We can put these gadgets and accessories on our bodies, including fitness bracelets, mHealth applications, etc.
So instead of wasting time visiting healthcare professionals in person, why not use a few apps and electronic accessories?
What Is an eHealth Strategy?
eHealth is a relatively new term denoting a healthcare practice supported by electronic resources and communications. The understanding of the term varies depending on the type of development of the specific health system.
Therefore, an eHealth strategy is based on the following pillars:
- Keeping patients’ data secure
- Linking and sharing health data for research and faster diagnoses
- Strengthening the relationship between patients and healthcare providers through eHealth services
In order to facilitate eHealthcare, there’s a need for building an infrastructure for eHealth services using digital technologies that will allow the exchange of electronic prescriptions and secure accumulation of health data of patients between healthcare providers.
In the long term, the goal is to create a format for exchanging electronic health records accessible to all medical professionals.
A decentralized digital health infrastructure facilitates specialized treatment methods, as well as cutting-edge diagnostics. It helps eHealth care workers to better respond to all threats and continue further development of medical products.
In this scenario, data on medications, digital imaging, laboratory findings, etc., is available 24-7. These electronic health records are the backbone of the eHealth. All the patients’ information is digitized and stored, with a relevant health information system deposited for each patient. This includes e-prescriptions or prescriptions for medications made through communication on the internet.
Health systems also benefit from innovative health care models using telemedicine and mobile health services to address the growing demand for health care. They are also part of the wider term eHealth.
Moreover, digital services can improve the prevention and management of chronic diseases and allow patients to provide pivotal feedback to healthcare providers.
Now let’s take a look at eHealth from a historical perspective.
History of eHealth
In 1971, El Camino Hospital implemented the world’s first electronic health record system. The medical information system (MIS) made this hospital the first computer-based medical centre in the world. Interestingly, the personnel used customized TV sets.
Ten years later, in 1981, the results showed that due to this eHealth technology, the cost of care per case in El Camino Hospital amounted to 40% less than the average in its county, including 13 other hospitals.
Therefore, the original MIS was eliminated, and a new approach, known as El Camino Hospital Online (ECHO) method, appeared. And while physicians continued to view and collect data from computer screens, just as they have done for almost four decades, they did make some enhancements. The devices enabled authorized employees to access patients’ records at any time and display them on a computer screen.
Telehealth is a part of telemedicine, which is a way of providing remote medical services without physical contact between the doctor and the patient, most often via telephone or video.
In the setting of the current coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine is a convenient way of communication between doctor and patient. Most importantly, it eliminates the need for physical visits to the doctor’s office. Also, it’s cost-effective as there’s no wasted time waiting in front of the doctor’s office.
By using the eHealth global technologies at their disposal, medical facilities can triage and handle emergencies in time, even outside working hours. These technologies also greatly help with the treatment and monitoring of diseases remotely, especially when it comes to patients with diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
These patients usually do not have urgent problems. Still, they need help adjusting the doses of drugs, determining the diet and physical activity, prescribing medications that have already been prescribed once, etc.
An additional convenience of monitoring health with e-services is that a consultation can be scheduled when a doctor receives all the lab and instrumental results and has complete information about the patient.
Telemedicine has been practised for a long time. Phone conversations are also part of telemedicine. With the advancement of technology, virtual meetings between doctors and patients are increasing and becoming a possible alternative to conventional treatment.
What Is Digital Health?
Digital health services and applications are seen as a means to reduce and optimize healthcare costs and improve healthcare access. All this creates a relatively large market for services, applications, accessories, new technologies, and the development of artificial intelligence in the digital world. It’s not surprising that digital health is becoming a significant focus of all the big names in the IT industry.
According to the World Health Organization, the three main aspects of digital health are:
- Delivery of information for healthcare professionals and consumers via the internet and telecommunication channels
- Using the power of information technology and e-commerce to improve public health services; for example, through the education and training of health professionals, including e-learning for healthcare workers for various eHealthcare jobs
- The use of e-commerce and e-business in the management of health systems
The difference between eHealth and digital health is subtle.
eHealth is mostly about driving productivity, quality, and protection of data in the health system utilizing IT and enabling health care providers to do their work more effectively through technology.
Digital health offers us an advantage we’ve never had before—to connect with virtually every health user in the world, regardless of their socio-economic background. In line with this, digital health is a new mobile platform for healthcare customers.
What Is mHealth?
The mHealth definition describes mHealth as medical and public health services that are assisted by electronic technologies, such as smartphones, laptops, etc. In the framework of public health, mHealth includes both telecommunication and multimedia content delivery technologies.
The most popular applications of mHealth include some of the following:
- Helping with diagnosis and rehabilitation
- Tracking illnesses and epidemics
- Managing the health supply chain
- Processing of remote data
- Telecommunication and education for healthcare workers
- Safe treatment of infectious illnesses
Many mHealth programs worldwide have confirmed that mobile devices are efficient enough to economically deliver these health interventions.
So what is mobile health exactly? Namely, it involves patients making and accepting telephone calls or chatting via text and voice messages. They connect with health professionals or agencies that provide health care services, such as screening, counselling, diagnoses, and treatment.
Healthcare staff is also provided with the tools needed to access the new clinical guidelines for mutual communication, research results, medical assistance, and patient experiences.
Adherence to prescription and chronic care treatment is enabled by notifying doctors through a cloud-based network. mHealth and eHealth benefits related to patients include enhanced access to specialists in different areas at a convenient time.
Another pillar of the eHealthcare system—digital data collection—eliminates healthcare professionals’ health knowledge deficit while allowing policymakers to analyze and assign resources effectively and adapt policies and services related to public health initiatives.
Quality care delivery is streamlined and helps overcome the lack of trained staff. It also reduces the pressure on individuals who are seeking to bridge the gap.
What follows are some of the guidelines and recommendations related to eHealth in general. For one, eHealth guarantees efficiency.
Enhanced Efficiency in Providing eHealthcare Services
One of the guarantees of eHealth is to improve efficiency in health care, thus reducing costs. Increasing efficiency implies not only reducing costs but also improving the quality of services.
Improving the Quality of Care
eHealth can improve healthcare quality by allowing comparisons between different service providers. The idea is also to direct patient flows to the best providers.
eHealth Information Management Empowers Patients
By making medical knowledge and personal eHealth data easily accessible to internet users, eHealth opens up new possibilities for patient-centred medicine and facilitates patient-physician relationships.
Encouraging the Patient-Physician Relationship
eHealth encourages communication between patients and health experts, aiming for real cooperation in which all choices are made together, allowing for information exchange and communication between health facilities.
Expansion of Traditional Services
eHealth expands the possibility of health care beyond its conservative limits. This is understood both in a topographical and in a conceptual sense. Digital health and wellness definitions now include facilitating consumers to get health, beauty, and wellness care online from international providers without any problems. These can range from simple tips and suggestions to more complex intermediaries or medications.
Ethics in eHealth
eHealth forms new ways of patient-physician communications but poses new challenges when it comes to issues such as online professional practice, informed consent, privacy, and fairness.
eHealth should be accessible to all people, regardless of their age, race, gender, ethnicity, etc.
E-Care Healthcare Applications
With the help of new technologies, doctors can now monitor the condition of their patients from a distance. Various devices measure heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. The results can be transferred directly to the doctor’s computer for review and evaluation. If necessary, some devices can transmit this data in real-time. This is an advantageous way for the follow-up of patients with chronic diseases.
Monitoring adherence to drug therapy is another useful application of digital health services. Since adherence to prescribed therapy is a crucial part of treatment, doctors can use telemedicine to track when and if a patient has taken his tablets at all.
This is especially valid in elderly patients who sometimes forget to take their medication, which leads to a worsening of their condition. The result of implementing eHealthcare is better adherence to therapy and fewer hospitalizations.
The ability to share specialized information between colleagues has significantly improved the quality of medical services. Nowadays, general practitioners can easily contact narrow specialists in other cities and countries and share any problem with their patients, thanks to shared medical information.
Due to mobile technology in healthcare, all medical professionals have access to patient data through their smartphones.
Other useful applications include: facilitating the flow to the emergency departments by contacting GPs who can tell patients if they need emergency care or not; searching for a second opinion without travelling to different places to be examined several times; remote consulting during emergencies; and providing health care in remote regions, even in hard-to-reach villages and developing countries.
More specific telemedicine techniques play a role in e visits in healthcare. Some portable devices (digital stethoscope, ECG machine, pulse oximeter, ultrasound, blood pressure monitor, otoscope, dermatoscope) can record information and send it online.
What is eHealth and How Does it Benefit Patients?
In most cases, tele-, digital, and mobile medicine benefit both the doctor and the patient. They increase access to quality medical services in remote regions, reduce medical costs, and make the modern, technologically active patient more responsible for their health.
Advantages of eHealth
Here are some of the numerous eHealth advantages:
- Makes healthcare more accessible for people living in remote regions or people with limited mobility (eHealth in India is especially popular)
- Reduces medical costs
- Reduces losses from missed working days
- Doctors can examine more patients
- Makes consultations with a specialist more accessible
- eHealth and digital health provide access to different specialists on the same platform
- Helps to establish a doctor-patient relationship
- Improves the quality of health services
- Patients with infectious diseases do not risk other patients waiting in front of the doctor’s office and the doctors themselves
- Creates opportunities for e-learning in healthcare for both professionals and patients
Disadvantages of eHealth
Let’s see some of the less positive aspects of eHealth:
- Requires the purchase of relevant equipment and computer literacy
- Inconsistencies in therapy
- Mobile health systems do not provide a chance for a physical examination
What Is eHealth Insurance?
eHealth Insurance is a private online medical insurance company located in Santa Clara, California, and organized in Delaware. The platform provides Medicare-related programs, such as prescription drug programs, Medigap, and Medicare Advantage policies.
E insurance is related to the medical services provided via eHealth technologies.
What Is a Digital Health Accelerator?
Top accelerators in Healthtech increase access to health facilities or the quality of care by creating innovative technology such as mHealth applications, wearables, or AI solutions.
Any of them has the ambition to encourage people to monitor their wellbeing and assist doctors in making medical decisions.
What Is Mobile Mental Health?
Mobile mental health includes using mobile telephone text messages and other software (video calls, applications) to provide health care information and support for people with mental problems such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse disorder, etc.
How is eHealth Used?
A wide variety of emerging tools are in charge of using eHealth. For example, the internet enables eHealth users to connect with health care providers via e-mail or calls, view medical documents, study health statistics, and participate in the sharing of email, audio, video, and other data from one person to another.
What Is eHealth Registration?
eHealth registration is any platform that allows obtaining and actively uses the full advantage of available digital health services, including access to specialists, medical data, electronic prescriptions, etc.
Nowadays, the recording of information about a patient—laboratory results, imaging, epicrisis—and its use by doctors is common. New technologies allow remote monitoring of vital signs and other patient data. This makes it easy to identify worrying abnormalities in high-risk patients early.
The interaction between a doctor and a patient or between two doctors in real-time through audio and video connection is a substitute for a live doctor’s visit. But to answer the question of what is eHealth, it’s safe to say that it’s the future of medicine.