Digital technologies are transforming the healthcare sector around the world, however, several aspects of this emerging field of science are still not properly understood. Ambiguity in the definition of digital health is an obstacle to research, policy and practice in this field. In order to achieve a consensus on the definition of digital health, we carried out a quantitative analysis and terminological mapping of published definitions of digital health. After inspecting 1527 records, we analyzed 95 unique definitions of digital health, from both academic and general sources.
The findings showed that digital health, as used in the literature, is more concerned with the provision of health care than with the use of technology. More emphasis has been placed on the well-being of individuals, both at the population and individual levels, than on the care of patients suffering from diseases. In addition, the use of data and information for patient care was highlighted. A dominant concept in digital health seemed to be mobile health (mHealth), which is related to other concepts such as telehealth, e-health and artificial intelligence in healthcare.
Digital health, or digital health care, is a broad, multidisciplinary concept that includes concepts of an intersection between technology and healthcare. Digital health applies digital transformation to the field of health, incorporating software, hardware and services. Under its umbrella, digital health includes mobile health applications (mHealth), electronic medical records (EHR), electronic medical records (EMR), portable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, as well as personalized medicine. In short, digital health is the convergence of digital and genomic revolutions with health, health care, life and society.
We believe that a universally accepted description and understanding of digital health will provide a basis for transforming traditional health systems from a model in which patients are the recipients of care to digital health ecosystems that allow consumers to manage their health and well-being on their own. The purpose of the WHO Global Digital Health Strategy is to help countries strengthen their health systems through the application of digital health technologies and achieve the vision of health for all. That's why Snowdon's team set out to create a definition based not on what digital health is, but on what digital health does. North America represents the dominant share in the global digital health market due to the increase in the region's elderly population, the high rate of smartphone adoption, and the drive to develop digital healthcare applications and platforms to reduce healthcare costs.
Topol's efforts to bring the term “digital” to the forefront of the conversation about technology and healthcare, combined with its expertise in genomics and its great credibility in the field of medicine, helped support my work in enacting the term digital health. However, often these same professionals may have little knowledge of the Internet, of how digital health tools work, or of how they should think, as doctors, about the benefits and risks associated with digital health tools and methods.