Written by Nicole Scholz
‘eHealth’ is a recently-coined term for the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in health, and refers to an interdisciplinary field with multiple uses. It aims to improve the quality of healthcare and make health systems more efficient and effective.
For patients, eHealth has the potential to bring them improved awareness of their condition and foster their involvement in the care process. It will also facilitate access to healthcare for certain groups of people, help the elderly live independently for longer and help adults with dementia to stay mentally fit. More generally, eHealth will support patient mobility and facilitate cross-border healthcare.
eHealth will allow health professionals to interact remotely with patients and other professionals, access specialised knowledge and facilitate research. Moreover, it has the potential to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare, thus alleviating the burden on European health budgets, and should foster growth in the areas of research, health, medicine and ICT.
Among the limitations and drawbacks of eHealth are the risks of impersonality and isolation, which may be detrimental to the importance of preserving a human dimension in healthcare and contrary to the desire to reinforce the patient-doctor relationship.
eHealth tools will not bring the expected benefits if they are not user-centric, user-friendly and universally accessible. Furthermore, there is a need to enhance self-confidence in eHealth use and to raise awareness of, and training in, eHealth. There are also reservations regarding privacy and confidentiality. And lastly, it is essential to guarantee the security and protection of health-related data, to build confidence and to ensure patients consent to the use of their data.
The outlook for eHealth covers several perspectives: political, technological, economic, research, international cooperation and stakeholders.