March 6, 2017

What do all these ‘health’-terms actually mean?

Digital Health

You will have seen it floating around the internet, all these technical health terms from eHealth to telehealth, but what do they actually mean? Are they all the same? Talking Medicines is here to help you navigate the digital health swamp. The terms eHealth, mHealth, telemedicine and telehealth are used to describe a broad concept within healthcare, the use of mobile and desktop technology for patient self-management. All terms are used interchangeably but represent a different use of technology within healthcare.

mHealth and eHealth

Admittedly, mHealth and eHealth probably do the same thing. Both play a role in supporting healthcare via electronic means. But what’s the difference? It’s as simple as one is for mobile and the other is not necessarily mobile related. The easiest way to distinguish between terms is in the name. mHealth is the use of mobile devices such as a mobile phone or tablet to support the practice of healthcare. Essentially, mHealth applications improve the delivery of healthcare information to researchers, practitioners and patients. Patients can log, store and monitor their own health and access electronic health records on their own personal mobile devices.

eHealth on the other hand, is the healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and compared to mHealth is a much broader term. For example, eHealth includes technology such as electronic health records, patient administration systems and lab systems, all of which cannot be stored within mobile health applications. The similarities of both eHealth and mHealth are there, hence the confusion. However, within healthcare, eHealth is a much more powerful and broader term.

Telehealth and Telemedicine

Both are easily confused and easily interchangeable. What’s difficult is to pin down an exact meaning for both terms. The broader term in this comparison is telehealth.  What separates telehealth and telemedicine, is telemedicine refers solely to remote clinical services. The concept of telemedicine began as a means to treat patients who were located in remote areas. Furthermore, the connected patient now wants to spend less time in waiting rooms and receive treatment for urgent conditions when needed.

By comparison, telehealth refers to both clinical and remote non clinical services such as providing training and continuing medical education, therefore, is a much broader concept.  Both telehealth and telemedicine can be used interchangeably, which is why there is no universal definitions for both terms.

The aim of eHealth, mHealth, telehealth and telemedicine is to improve the quality, efficiency and cost of healthcare by a variety of electronic means. All four terms play a key role in improving patient self-management via electronic processes with each term playing its own unique role. Although the terms can be used interchangeably, eHealth and telehealth are broader more encompassing healthcare terms.

 

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