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eHealth (also written e-health) is a relatively recent term for healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and communication, dating back to at least 1999.[1] Usage of the term varies: some would argue it is interchangeable with health informatics with a broad definition covering electronic/digital processes in health[2] while others use it in the narrower sense of healthcare practice using the Internet.[3][4][5] It can also include health applications and links on mobile phones, referred to as m-health or mHealth. Since about 2011, the increasing recognition of the need for better cyber-security and regulation may result in the need for these specialized resources to develop safer eHealth solutions that can withstand these growing threats.

Forms of e-health[edit]

The term can encompass a range of services or systems that are at the edge of medicine/healthcare and information technology, including:

Contested definition[edit]

Several authors have noted the variable usage in the term, from being specific to the use of the Internet in healthcare to being generally around any use of computers in healthcare.[7] Various authors have considered the evolution of the term and its usage and how this maps to changes in health informatics and healthcare generally.[1][8][9] Oh et al., in a 2005 systematic review of the term's usage, offered the definition of eHealth[10] as a set of technological themes in health today, more specifically based on commerce, activities, stakeholders, outcomes, locations, or perspectives. One thing that all sources seem to agree on is that e-Health initiatives do not originate with the patient, though the patient may be a member of a patient organization that seeks to do this (see e-Patient).

E-Health data exchange[edit]

One of the factors blocking the use of e-Health tools from widespread acceptance is the concern about privacy issues regarding patient records, most specifically the EPR (Electronic patient record). This main concern has to do with the confidentiality of the data. There is also concern about non-confidential data however. Each medical practise has its own jargon and diagnostic tools. To standardize the exchange of information, various coding schemes may be used in combination with international medical standards. Of the forms of e-Health already mentioned, there are roughly two types; front-end data exchange and back-end exchange.

Front-end exchange typically involves the patient, while back-end exchange does not. A common example of a rather simple front-end exchange is a patient sending a photo taken by mobile phone of a healing wound and sending it by email to the family doctor for control. Such an actions may avoid the cost of an expensive visit to the hospital.

A common example of a back-end exchange is when a patient on vacation visits a doctor who then may request access to the patient's health records, such as medicine prescriptions, x-ray photographs, or blood test results. Such an action may reveal allergies or other prior conditions that are relevant to the visit.


Successful e-Health initiatives such as e-Diabetes have shown that for data exchange to be facilitated either at the front-end or the back-end, a common thesaurus is needed for terms of reference.[11] Various medical practises in chronic patient care (such as for diabetic patients) already have a well defined set of terms and actions, which makes standard communication exchange easier, whether the exchange is initiated by the patient or the caregiver.

In general, explanatory diagnostic information (such as the standard ICD-10) may be exchanged insecurely, and private information (such as personal information from the patient) must be secured. E-health manages both flows of information, while ensuring the quality of the data exchange.

Early adopters[edit]

Chronic patients over time often acquire a high level of knowledge about the processes involved in their own care, and often develop a routine in coping with their condition. For these types of routine patients, front-end e-Health solutions tend to be relatively easy to implement.

E-Mental Health[edit]

E-mental health is frequently used to refer to internet based interventions and support for mental health conditions.[12] However, it can also refer to the use of information and communication technologies that also includes the use of social media, landline and mobile phones.[13] E-mental health services can include information; peer support services, computer and internet based programs, virtual applications and games as well as real time interaction with trained clinicians.[14] Programs can also be delivered using telephones and interactive voice response (IVR) [15]

Mental disorders includes a range of conditions such as alcohol and drug use disorders, mood disorders such as depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, delusional disorders such as schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.[16] The majority of e-mental health interventions have focused on the treatment of depression and anxiety.[14] There are, however, programs also for problems as diverse as smoking cessation [17] gambling [18] and post-disaster mental health.[19]

Advantages and Disadvantages[edit]

E-mental health has a number of advantages such as being low cost, easily accessible and providing anonymity to users.[20] However, there are also a number of disadvantages such as concerns regarding user privacy and confidentiality. Online security involves the implementation of appropriate safeguards to protect user privacy and confidentiality. This includes appropriate collection and handling of user data, the protection of data from unauthorized access and modification and the safe storage of data.[21]

E-mental health has been gaining momentum in the academic research as well as practical arenas in a wide variety of disciplines such as psychology, clinical social work, family and marriage therapy, and mental health counseling. Testifying to this momentum, the E-Mental Health movement has its own international organization, The International Society for Mental Health Online.[22] It also has its own academic peer review journals, such as the Journal of Medical Internet Research.[23]


There are at least four programs currently available to treat anxiety and depression. Two programs have been identified by the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence [24] as cost effective for use in primary care. The first is Fearfighter[25] which is a text based CBT[disambiguation needed] program to treat people with phobias and the second is Beating the Blues,[26] an interactive text, cartoon and video CBT program for anxiety and depression. Two programs have been supported for use in primary care by the Australian Government. The first is Anxiety Online,[27] a text based program for the anxiety, depressive and eating disorders, and the second is This Way Up,[28] a set of interactive text, cartoon and video programs for the anxiety and depressive disorders.

There are a number of online programs relating to smoking cessation. QuitCoach[29] is a personalised quit plan based on the users response to questions regarding giving up smoking and tailored individually each time the user logs in to the site. Freedom From Smoking[30] takes users through lessons that are grouped into modules that provide information and assignments to complete. The modules guide participants through steps such as preparing to quit smoking, stopping smoking and preventing relapse.

Other internet programs have been developed specifically as part of research into treatment for specific disorders. For example, an online self-directed therapy for problem gambling was developed to specifically test this as a method of treatment.[31] All participants were given access to a website. The treatment group was provided with behavioural and cognitive strategies to reduce or quit gambling. This was presented in the form of a workbook which encouraged participants to self-monitor their gambling by maintaining an online log of gambling and gambling urges. Participants could also use a smartphone application to collect self-monitoring information. Finally participants could also choose to receive motivational email or text reminders of their progress and goals.

An internet based intervention was also developed for use after Hurricane Ike in 2009.[32] During this study, 1,249 disaster-affected adults were randomly recruited to take part in the intervention. Participants were given a structured interview then invited to access the web intervention using a unique password. Access to the website was provided for a four month period. As participants accessed the site they were randomly assigned to either the intervention. those assigned to the intervention were provided with modules consisting of information regarding effective coping strategies to manage mental health and health risk behaviour.


Cybermedicine is the use of the Internet to deliver medical services, such as medical consultations and drug prescriptions. It is the successor to telemedicine, wherein doctors would consult and treat patients remotely via telephone or fax.

Cybermedicine is already being used in small projects where images are transmitted from a primary care setting to a medical specialist, who comments on the case and suggests which intervention might benefit the patient. A field that lends itself to this approach is dermatology, where images of an eruption are communicated to a hospital specialist who determines if referral is necessary.

A Cyber Doctor,[33] known in the UK as a Cyber Physician,[34] is a medical professional who does consultation via the internet, treating virtual patients, who may never meet face to face. This is a new area of medicine which has been utilized by the armed forces and teaching hospitals offering online consultation to patients before making their decision to travel for unique medical treatment only offered at a particular medical facility.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Della Mea, Vincenzo. "What is e-Health (2): The death of telemedicine?". Journal of Medical Internet Research ( 3 (2): e22. doi:10.2196/jmir.3.2.e22. PMC 1761900. PMID 11720964. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  2. ^ International Telecommunication Union. "Implementing e-Health in Developing Countries: Guidance and Principles" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  3. ^ "HIMSS SIG develops proposed e-health definition", HIMSS News, 13(7): 12
  4. ^ Eysenbach G, Diepgen TL. The role of e-health and consumer health informatics for evidence-based patient choice in the 21st century. Clin Dermatol. 2001 Jan-Feb;19(1):11-7
  5. ^ Ball MJ, Lillis J. E-health: transforming the physician/patient relationship. Int J Med Inform. 2001 Apr;61(1):1-10
  6. ^ Jochen Fingberg, Marit Hansen et al.: Integrating Data Custodians in eHealth Grids – Security and Privacy Aspects, NEC Lab Report, 2006
  7. ^ Eysenbach, G. "What is e-health?". Journal of Medical Internet Research ( 3 (2): e20. doi:10.2196/jmir.3.2.e20. PMC 1761894. PMID 11720962. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  8. ^ Pagliari, Claudia; Sloan, David; Gregor, Peter; Sullivan, Frank; Detmer, Don; Kahan, James P; Oortwijn, Wija; MacGillivray, Steve. "What Is eHealth (4): A Scoping Exercise to Map the Field". Journal of Medical Internet Research ( 7 (1): e9. doi:10.2196/jmir.7.1.e9. PMC 1550637. PMID 15829481. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  9. ^ Ahern, David K; Kreslake, Jennifer M; Phalen, Judith M; Bock, Beth. "What Is eHealth (6): Perspectives on the Evolution of eHealth Research". Journal of Medical Internet Research ( 8. doi:10.2196/jmir.8.1.e4. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  10. ^ Jadad, Alejandro; Oh, Hans; Rizo, Carlos; Enkin, Murray; Powell, John; Pagliari, Claudia. "What Is eHealth: A Systematic Review of Published Definitions". Journal of Medical Internet Research ( 7. doi:10.2196/jmir.7.1.e1. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  11. ^ "e-Diabetes on the website of the Dutch Diabetes foundation". Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  12. ^ Bennett, K., Reynolds, J., Christensen, H., & Griffiths, K.M. (2010) e-hub: an online self-help mental health service in the community. "Medical Journal of Australia", 192(11) S48-S52.
  13. ^ The NHS Confederation (2013) "E-Mental Health: what’s all the fuss about?" London, UK.
  14. ^ a b Australian Government (2012) "E-Mental Health Strategy for Australia." Canberra, Australia.
  15. ^ National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (2008) "Computerised cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety." London, UK.
  16. ^ American Psychiatric Association (2000) "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders." Eigal Meirovich, Baltimore, US.
  17. ^ Civljak, M., Sheikh, A., Stead, L.F. & Car, J. (2012) Internet-based interventions for smoking cessation. "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews" 2010, (9) Art. No:CD007078. Retrieved 21st April, 2013, from The Cochrane Library Database.
  18. ^ Hodgins, D.C. , Fick, G.H., Murray, R. & Cunningham, J.A.(2013) Internet-based interventions for disordered gamblers: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of online self-directed cognitive-behavioural motivational therapy "BMC Public Health" (13) 10.
  19. ^ Ruggiero, K.J., Resnick, H. s., Paul, L.A., Gros, K., McCauley, J.L., Acierno, R., Morgan, M. & Galea, S. (2012) Randomized Controlled Trial of an Internet-Based Intervention Using Random-Digit-Dial Recruitment: "The Disaster Recovery" Web Project "Contemporary Clinical Trials" 33 (1) 237-246.
  20. ^ Andrews G. & Titov, N. (2010) Treating people you never see: internet-based treatment of the internalising mental disorders, "Australian Health Review," 34,2 pg 144-147.
  21. ^ Bennett K., Bennett A.J. & Griffiths K.M. (2010) Security Considerations for E-Mental Health Interventions "Journal of Medical Internet Research" 12(5):e61
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Hodgins, D.C. , Fick, G.H., Murray, R. & Cunningham, J.A.(2013) Internet-based interventions for disordered gamblers: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of online self-directed cognitive-behavioural motivational therapy "BMC Public Health" (13) 10.
  32. ^ Ruggiero, K.J., Resnick, H. s., Paul, L.A., Gros, K., McCauley, J.L., Acierno, R., Morgan, M. & Galea, S. (2012) Randomized Controlled Trial of an Internet-Based Intervention Using Random-Digit-Dial Recruitment: "The Disaster Recovery" Web Project "Contemporary Clinical Trials" 33 (1) 237-246.
  33. ^ US term,
  34. ^ UK term,,,408225,00.html
  35. ^ Online visits a boon for far-off patients,,

Further reading[edit]

(M = Medline, W = Wilson Business Abstracts, G = Google)