E-health communication: Overview
E-health communication broadly refers to the electronic methods of communication practiced by professionals in the Healthcare industry. Because it is such a new practice, the exact definition of e-health communication is up for debate. Some Healthcare professionals argue that it’s a broad term that encompasses any of the ways in which Healthcare professionals work with Healthcare data electronically, while others say it’s the use of the Internet when working within the Healthcare profession. E-health communication also can refer to the usage of Healthcare applications on a mobile device, and this is usually referred to as mHealth.
The E-health debate
E-health has been defined as any mash-up of medicine, Healthcare, and technology, and can include the following:
- Keeping electronic health records, allowing communication among Healthcare professionals (specialists, RNs, GPs) to widen.
- Diagnosing, working with treatments, and receiving lab and test results electronically.
- Working with prescriptions and sending them out to other Healthcare professionals.
- Sending out information regarding protocols when diagnosing and treating patients for other Healthcare professionals.
- Telemonitoring and telemedicine, or the practice of diagnosing conditions from a distance.
- Using health informatics, or the practice of searching for medical resources online or over a network.
- Reading, tracking, and managing knowledge of the Healthcare industry.
- Collaborating and sharing virtual patient records for special types of care.
- Using smartphones to collect, study, monitor, and aggregate health data with other Healthcare professionals.
- Keeping large amounts of data using “grids,” or powerful data management programs, in order to manage heterogeneous data.
- Managing and scheduling appointments electronically.
E-health and privacy
No matter what the exact definition may be, most Healthcare professionals can agree that the usage of e-health software and tools presents unique privacy concerns. When patient records are kept and shared electronically — especially EPR records, or electronic patient records — the line of confidentiality is blurred.
What’s worse, there is also the concern of in-industry jargon — the terms a primary physician is accustomed to using is bound to be different from the terms a surgeon uses. As e-health communication continues to mature, so does the need for the standardization of the communication between industry professionals. Various standardization methods have been put into use, including certain coding schemes to refer to the jargon and a method for international Healthcare standards. Systems detailing these types of standardization are called Health Information Exchange, or HIEs.
As the standardization and methods for E-Health communication matures, so will the definition of the term and the protocols for privacy.