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E-Health » What is E-Health?

What is E-Health?

People use the term “e-health” in many ways and its meaning has become somewhat opaque. There are many ways that technology (i.e. the “e”) can be combined with “health” to the benefit of patients.

E-Health and Online Information: As a publisher of online health information, we think of “e-health” as the ability of people to search the Internet to find health information for free, immediately at their fingertips. That information and its easy availability is causing a revolution in health care, giving a lot more information to patients about their medical conditions. Such power and information to patients is not without its risks, but the consumer demand for this is clear. This type of “e-health” is directly accessed by patients. Some of the leading players that offer health information on the Internet include WebMD, Yahoo Health, MSN Health, and our own site, all of which offer accessible and mainstream medical information. The U.S. government also offers an immense array of information for free on its NIH website, various sub-sections of that site, and other sites for the health agencies such as the FDA and the CDC.

E-Health and the Healthcare Industry: Governments and large health companies tends to use the term “e-health” to refer to various initiatives to use computers and electronic media to better manage the overall healthcare system for patients, i.e., to help doctors and hospitals better handle the electronic data about health care and patients. In particular, the concept of an “electronic health record” (EHR) has become particularly popular as a target of government funding, with the goal that a person’s personal health information is electronically available to all the professionals caring for that person. Not only governments, but certain private companies such as WebMD and Revolution Health are spear-heading this type of e-health technology. The goals include better care for patients, reduced costs, and greater productivity in the health care system. This type of “e-health” isn’t really used by patients, but by the organizations that care for patients.

E-Health as Health + Technology: There are other definitions of “e-health” which seems to be used to describe almost any intersection of technology and healthcare. For example, the use of remote video as an aid for diagnosing and treating remote patients is an interesting application of “e-health”. Another example is greater use of technology within each individual doctor’s office, or the use of hand-held information devices by doctors as they do their medical rounds in hospitals.


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