Used by marketing agents, leaders in health care, and hi-tech industries, eHealth is a term used to describe or characterize technology influences on new age health care, medicine, and computer systems. The 'e' in the term should not be mistaken for electronic but is actually used to describe a number of "e's" to effectively define what e-health should be. G Eysenbach from Journal of Medical Research best describes the term as:

"e-Health is 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 health care locally, regionally, and worldwide by using information and communication technology."

Forms of e-Health:

Electronic Medical Records - health record in digital format, easily shared across different health care settings.
Telemedicine - The use of treating a patient at a distance using video communications or specialized hardware.
m-Health - mobile health, using mobile devices to aid in diagnosing and treating patients, as well as providing real-time information to practitioners.
Healthcare information systems - software solutions for appointment scheduling, patient data management, work schedule management and other administrative tasks surrounding health

The 13 "e's" in e-health:

  1. Efficiency - one of the promises of e-health is to increase efficiency in health care, thereby decreasing costs. One possible way of decreasing costs would be by avoiding duplication or unnecessary diagnostic or therapeutic interventions through enhanced communication possibilities between health care establishments. Also includes patient involvement with their health records.
  2. Enhancing quality of care - increasing efficiency involves not only reducing costs, but at the same time improving quality. E-health may enhance the quality of health care. For example, by allowing comparisons between different providers and directing patient streams to the best quality providers.
  3. Evidence based - e-health interventions should be evidence-based in a sense that their effectiveness and efficiency should not be assumed but proven by rigorous scientific evaluation. While strides have been made in e-based medicine, there is still much to be done.
  4. Empowerment of consumers and patients - by making the knowledge bases of medicine and personal electronic records accessible to consumers over the Internet, e-health opens new avenues for patient-centered medicine, and enables evidence-based patient choice.
  5. Encouragement of a new relationship between the patient and health professional, towards a true partnership, where decisions are made in a shared manner.
  6. Education of physicians through online sources (continuing medical education) and consumers (health education, tailored preventive information for consumers)
  7. Enabling information exchange and communication in a standardized way between health care establishments.
  8. Extending the scope of health care beyond its conventional boundaries. This is meant in both a geographical sense as well as in a conceptual sense. e-health enables consumers to easily obtain health services online from global providers. These services can range from simple advice to more complex interventions or products such a pharmaceuticals.
  9. Ethics - e-health involves new forms of patient-physician interaction and poses new challenges and threats to ethical issues such as online professional practice, informed consent, privacy and equity issues.
  10. Equity - to make health care more equitable is one of the promises of e-health. However, considerable threat that e-health may deepen the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" exists. For example, people who do not have the money, skills, and the ability to access computers. These patient populations (which would actually benefit the most from health information) are least likely to benefit from advances in information technology unless measures are put in place to ensure equitable access for all. The digital divide currently runs between rural vs. urban populations, rich vs. poor, young vs. old, male vs. female people, and between neglected/rare vs. common diseases.
  11. Easy-to-use - the software must be easy to use for both doctors and patients. If it is too hard to use, adoption rates will fall and the benefits of e-health will not be realized to its full potential.
  12. Entertaining - To keep doctors and patients interested in e-health it has to be both entertaining and exciting to use.
  13. Exciting

Web Resources:

Related Terminology:

Virtual healthcare team
Electronic Medical Records
Health Knowledge Management