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E-health’s Role in Transforming Clinical Practice in a Nutshell

Posted Nov 15 2011 11:53am

The rate at which health care practice is being initiated and carried out is getting more up to date than ever before.  In recent years it has become known as E-health and this started at around the year 1999. E-health has since then been recognized as  health care practice that is ably supported by electronic processes and communication. It has also become synonymous with health informatics due to the electronic and digital processes involved while some people credit it with the name largely because of the interdependence of health care practice with the Internet.

E-health And How It Is Defined

With the growing need to completely define E-health, various authors in the medical field have come up with the following definitions in the hope of completely identifying the roles and functions of E-health:

  • Internet- related health care activities  (Jhita- Google)

  • The use of information technology in the delivery of health care (Strategic Health Innovations – Google)

  • The use of  emerging information and communication technology, especially the internet, to improve or enable health and health care ( Robert J Wood Foundation – Google)

  • The practice of leveraging the internet to connect caregivers, health care systems and hospitals with consumers ( HMS Europe – Google)

These definitions, among others, aim to enlighten us with the major tasks of E-health and its significance to human lives.  The continuing changes in its definition and usage have helped propel changes within the health care practice as well as on health informatics.

E-health And Its Range of Services And Systems

The following are the range of services and systems encompassing the area of E-health which will enable us to more fully grasp its function towards the transformation of clinical practice:

  • Electronic Health Records-  enables the communication of patient data between health care professionals

  • Telemedicine- distant psychological as well as physical treatment

  • Consumer health informatics – usage of electronic resources  on medical topics by healthy patients

  • Health knowledge management – by way of  medical  journals  and physician resources such as Medscape

  • Virtual health care teams – health care professionals who collaborate and share information with patients through digital  equipment

  • M-health – utilization of mobile devices in collecting patient level health data  which in turn provides the needed  health care information to practitioners, researchers and patients. It also includes real time monitoring of patient vital signs and direct provision of care thru mobile telemedicine.

  • Health care Information Systems – It refers to software solutions for appointment scheduling and patient data management among others.

Health Informatics At A Glance

While the functions of E-health may be too broad and complex for some a big chunk of  this specialized  field of  practice is carried out  by Health or Medical Informatics. It is defined as  the  use of  computer technologies  in health care to  store, share, transmit and analyze clinical knowledge and data.  The following are just some of the definitions that aim to  more specifically explain the  usage of health informatics  in health  care practice:

  • It comprises theoretical and practical aspects of information processing and communication, based on knowledge and experience derived from processes in medicine and health care. ( Van Bemmel JH)

  • The science of using system-analytic tools to develop procedures for management, process control, decision making and scientific analysis of medical knowledge. (Shortliffe EH)

  • The rational study of the way we think about patients and the way that treatments are defined, selected and evolved.  It is the study of how medical knowledge is created, shaped, shared and applied. ( Enrico Coiera)

The above definitions offer us a clearer perspective of how Health Informatics is being facilitated   and utilized towards the delivery of an effective health care practice.

The Role of E-health in transforming clinical practice

E-health has in a nutshell highly enhanced networking and facilitated global thinking. It has also greatly improved health care on local, regional and national levels according to Cashen, Dykes and Gerber.  Its goals and roles can be enumerated as follows according to Austin and Boxerman:

  • Increased efficiency in health care

  • Improved quality of care

  • Increased commitment to evidence-based medicine

  • Empowerment of patients and consumers

  • Development of new relationships  between patients and health professionals

The greatest benefactors of E-health are the people living in rural areas   by enabling them to have easier access to information and telemedicine services. While these areas may be densely remote more and more rural communities are now hooked up to the internet and have stable internet connections. The usage of mobile devices such as cell phones is already widespread which can help facilitate patient and doctor communications. According to Kwankam the Ehealth networks remove time and distance barriers to the flow of health information and help ensure that collective knowledge is brought together towards solving the health problems of the world.

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