The New Era of Digital Health
Crystal Chin (@eHealthCareers & @_CrystalChin) and Maheisha Ravendra (@MaheishaR) will moderate this week’s #hcsmca focussed on digital health. Here they describe how they define the new era of digital health.
By Crystal Chin and Maheisha Ravendra
Healthcare is evolving as more processes use and gain insight through technology. Systems such as electronic medical records, picture archiving and communication systems and clinical information systems have been implemented and are now part of the healthcare infrastructure. However, with the arrival of data science, mobile technology, wearable devices, pharmacogenomics and personal health data, a new era of digital health is emerging. These new innovations all aim to achieve better health. But it also means a whole new set of concepts and ideas.
Although there are many ideas of what digital health is, such as the “convergence of the digital and genetics revolutions with health and health care” as defined by well regarded digital health enthusiast Paul Sonnier, we feel digital health can be considered an umbrella term that includes and is definitely not limited to:
- Health Informatics – According to COACH, Canada’s Health Informatics Association, “health informatics involves the application of information technology to facilitate the creation and use of health-related data, information and knowledge.” The short – and somewhat shortsighted – definition is the intersection between health, technology and, to some extent, business.
- eHealth – Broadly speaking, eHealth and health informatics have been used interchangeably. However, many are probably more familiar with ehealth than health informatics. To some, the term has some unfortunate connotations but is commonly used to encompass systems such as electronic health records (EHRs) and decision support systems (DSS).
- mHealth – Simply put, mHealth is the use of mobile technologies to support healthcare and health outcomes. It can be as simple as text-message reminders or as complex as smartphone apps.
- Telehealth – Telehealth uses telecommunication technology to support healthcare. The Ontario Telehealth Network, for example, is one of largest telehealth networks in the world.
- Social Media – There are plenty of ways social media is influencing healthcare; #hcsmca is a perfect example! Participants of the February 4 #hcsmca chat may remember the scholarly paper published about our community Enabling Community Through Social Media. But did you know that social media can also be used for things like disease tracking and surveillance?
- Big Data in Health – Big Data in a buzzword for many industries. According to IBM, big data in health is about “[leveraging] big data technology to capture all of the information about a patient to get a more complete view for insight into care coordination and outcomes-based reimbursement models, population health management, and patient engagement and outreach.”
- Wearable technology – Wearable fitness monitors like Nike Fuel and Fitbit fall under this category of wearable health technology. These kinds of devices can be used to to track and maintain the health of wearers.
As you can see, digital health covers a wide range of topics, with many converging but diverse meanings. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It certainly seems like we are entering a new era of digital health and health technology.
For the February 19th edition of #hcsmca, we propose the following discussion questions.
- T1: Do you think Digital Health will have a meaningful impact on how you engage with your health and the healthcare system?
- T2: What skills do people need to work in this new Digital Health era? Clinical, technology, or business – which is most important?
- T3: What applications of Digital Health do you think are most important?