What is eHealth? Why should I as a healthcare organization bother about eHealth? What benefits are to be expected from eHealth? And what should we do, if anything? These questions were recently asked by Dr. Gunter Fuchs founder and senior partner at The Fox Group.
But, let me introduce myself: I am Rob Halkes; the lead consultant in Europe for The Fox Group, LLC. I have been active with eHealth applications, like telemonitoring, health portals, patients’ personal health records (EHR), and other eHealth technology applications.
To answer the first question, what eHealth is, I must disappoint you.
The term eHealth does not have a conclusive meaning – yet. eHealth is actually a broadly conceived term for all sorts of health care activities that make use of the internet, to record data and create interaction with all concerned. Originally, eHealth was used as a term to cover all sorts of telemonitoring in healthcare and medicine. Now, there is still no definite (academic) definition/description, if there ever will be one; but eHealth is understood as an overarching term that encompasses all use of technology, mobile health apps, internet-based and data-driven relationships, focused on providers, patients, and payors. At The Fox Group, we think of eHealth as the intersection of digital technology, the internet, social media and healthcare clinical and administrative processes.
We see a growing consensus on the following technologies and applications as elements of eHealth
- Electronic Health Records (EHR or EMR): the collection and storage of a patient’s health records into a digital format;
- Telemedicine: providing medical care for patients from a distance;
- Remote monitoring: a technology that allows physicians to receive and act on a patient’s vital data;
- The safe exchange of health information and data;
- Mobile health: using mobile devices, and their health apps;
- Open, social media based, ePatient conversations between stakeholders and forums; and
- Digital technologies facilitating multidisciplinary approaches to health care.
eHealth, from the handheld device to the provider, via interconnected technologies, assisted by the internet
In this way you might as well think of eHealth as a configuration of several applications of patient and non-patient or population healthcare, on line and “connected” – a configuration that requires tailoring to each situation and demand. This, of course is only feasible via easily accessible technology, and the participation of providers, institutions, patients, payors, and even social media institutions and outlets.
The answer to the second question, why eHealth? is straightforward
You know about the continuously rising costs of care. No society is able to keep up with with this rate of growth in the costs of healthcare delivery. eHealth is regarded as a most potent solution. With eHealth, patients can be more active with their therapy via self management, which is crucial to their treatment and rehabilitation, and to the outcome of therapy. Use of eHealth applications can create more effective outcomes of care with lesser costs. Patients will be more resilient to the attitudes and activities of their helping professionals, so you will need to decide how to follow up on this.
That brings us to the effectiveness of eHealth: what benefits you might expect from eHealth
Definite financial savings impacts have been observed, along with better medical outcomes, and patients were more satisfied with their treatments. But it must be handled wisely, because positive results of eHealth are not self-evident or self-actualizing. Part of eHealth will be a redesign of the patient care processes with closer connections and communications/interactions with your patients, and with higher levels of collaboration between all concerned.
So, what should you do: You should tailor your eHealth developments to your local conditions
That is perfectly possible and feasible: The Fox Group can help you define your needs and wants and the demands for your development of eHealth. Learn about the eHealth Thought Lab, a focused strategic and actionable session, that will enable you to get an easy but thorough introduction to your own start with eHealth implementation and outcomes. But whatever path you chose to understand this future trend, be open to the concepts and potential of eHealth. Your patients, providers and competitors certainly are!