Ehealth has no strict definition, as it tends to incorporate hundreds of different disciplines. This can often lead to confusion as some companies who can still claim to be an EHealth provider, can produce completely different products to others.
The implications of all of these cannot all be lumped into the same bracket though.
Each different practice that falls into EHealth will have a different meanings and different implications, so we have listed below four that we believe will have the biggest impact.
What Is It?
At present medical records in most countries are kept in paper format, meaning that in order to get them, hospitals and GPs need to contact one another to find them. This causes significant delays in treatment and can cause problems with emergency surgeries if a patient has a particular medical history or allergy.
Through making medical records electronic and accessible by medical practitioners this would be a thing of the past, as records could be instantly accessed. It would cut delays in receiving information and potentially save lives in emergency situations.
Medical records are the most private things that anybody has written about them, so having them easily accessible could leave them open to abuse. Making sure that people’s records are effectively protected from hackers or insurance companies is fundamental to its success.
If this information found its way into the wrong hands, the implications could be huge, so the key to a successful electronic records implementation is all about security.
What Is It?
Mobile health is an umbrella term that can focus on several aspects, but for the purpose of this, it is being defined as the ability to track and upload health data through mobile devices.
This means that people can track long term conditions through sensors in much the same way that wearable fitness trackers can track how many steps somebody has taken in a day. This information can then be relayed back to both the patient and doctor in order to track the progress of a treatment or health of the patient. This means that if the patient shows signs of a worsening or improving, the doctor can then base new treatments from this.
One of the keys to a successful treatment is being able to relate it to how a person reacts to it in the real world. This is a very difficult thing to do when in a clinical situation as these are normally limited to a number of minutes, they can often be stressful and patients can feel totally different at the time to how they feel in their day-to-day routine.
Having a backlog of stored information that a clinician can access to see the effects that treatments are having beyond one blood test or short conversation is key to making the correct decision in terms of treatment.
What Is It?
A clinical database is a collection of millions of data points for sufferers of particular diseases. This could be from a serious life threatening disease through to a minor ailment. These data points are anonymised to protect the identity of the sufferers, but can have a huge effect on the future treatments of particular afflictions.
Not everybody will react to particular treatments in the same way, but there are indications based on lifestyle, ethnicity or environmental changes. To have access to a database showing how people with similar backgrounds reacted can be vital to quickly and effectively treating a condition.
Having the ability to see how somebody may react to a particular treatment is an important medical tool that can be the difference between curing a disease or exacerbating it. With thousands of case studies that can each be filtered based on particular circumstances, the chances of finding the best treatment is significantly increased.
Equally, it is possible to draw further conclusions from this data, such as the kinds of people who are more susceptible to particular medical problems or how particular treatments can impact on a certain element of the population in a positive/negative way.
What Is It?
Telemedicine is the overall term for medical advice or treatment given by doctors whilst not directly with the patient. This could be anything from a phone conversation to in-depth analysis of data collected through mobile health.
It could be done due to alerts sent to a physician if the state of a patient hits a certain level or if they require treatment and contact their physician directly. It is also a good way for doctors to monitor patient care and increase the connection with them.
Aside from having the increased contact in developed countries, the real benefit of this could be its use in more remote areas where doctors and hospitals are harder to access. If somebody were to have a disease in a remote area then they would have access to a doctor that may normally take them hours or even days to visit in person.
Although this would require a certain level of infrastructure in remote areas (like phone signal) this is relatively inexpensive compared to the price of a hospital or GP practice.