Both the term e-health and the term digital health are generic “umbrella” terms, that is, very broad and flexible. Both can be translated into Italian as “digital health”. So in this blog they will be used synonymously, that is, interchangeably.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed an even broader use of the term digital health, echoed by the ITU: “a very generic term that includes e-health as well as areas under development such as the use of advanced computer sciences (for example in the field of “big data”, genomics and artificial intelligence) “.
So for the World Health Organization when we talk about digital health we refer to eHealth but also to other “advanced computer sciences” that could go beyond e-health. This appears to be intended to leave a regulatory loophole open for “advanced” cases not fully covered by formal rules and descriptions.
See also our more detailed discussion of the meaning of the term digital health.Salient features of eHealthThe key features of digital health solutions are multiple, but they can generally be summarized (incompletely) with (one or more of) these salient points:
Connectivity (with the Internet, with the voice network, with corporate networks, etc.)
Accessibility (for all segments of the population as in the case of smartphone apps)
Mobility and portability (ultralight laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.)
Use of new communication technologies (text messaging, voice and video to communicate with healthcare professionals: for example, the use of Whatsapp to communicate with your doctor, or dedicated online telemedicine solutions, etc.)
Wearability: miniaturization has made it possible to create devices such as wearables that can be brought into contact with your body for 24 hours a day, allowing innovative solutions such as continuous monitoring of heart rate or sleep quality (sleep tracking, in English)
Data exchange: mobility and portability can also refer to the ease with which you can transmit your health data (such as the results of examinations, or electronic medical prescriptions) between different bodies
Privacy: data exchange is a powerful tool to enhance the services of the national health system, however it is first of all necessary that the privacy of users is respected by following stringent rules such as those dictated by the GDPR in Europe and by specific standards for eHealth, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the USA
Cyber-security: any solution that prides itself on being digital health cannot be said to be such if it is unable to offer its users an acceptable level of cyber-security based on established industry practice (i.e. based on guidelines and “best practices”) as well as specific regulations, such as the aforementioned HIPAA.
Use of latest generation technologies, such as sophisticated neural networks and other artificial intelligence technologies, or micro-sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes (also called micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)), or robotic technologies, blockchain-based solutions, and so on .
Classification of eHealth TechnologiesThere are many classification models of e-health technologies, which in turn can generate new terminology and cause a certain level of confusion. The following article notes that:
“There are several ways to classify eHealth that provide an overall view of eHealth, for example according to a certain category of devices, according to the medium that the technology uses (web-based, mobile apps, etc.), in based on the context of care (eCare, eTherapy, eAppointment, ePrevention, etc.) or based on the actors (ie based on the interaction between the actors of this system). “