What is eHealth?
It is a fact of modern life that we spend most of our time within eyeshot or earshot of our phones and, to be more snugly wrapped in all that comfortable tech, we sport wearables almost round the clock. While for some it may simply be a matter of following the hype, the majority of consumers wear their fitness trackers and smartwatches because they are genuinely concerned about their health.
This is what eHealth is all about. Being a term of extremely wide application, it encompasses a number of different directions that modern healthcare can go in, ranging from electronic health records and ePrescribing to telemedicine and mHealth. It is a field so broad that trying to cover its every branch would be akin to staggering around a maze. It can, however, with certainty be called the next step in the evolution of healthcare, making use of the best of both worlds: the efficiency and high pace of information technology and the solid medical knowledge and skill acquired by healthcare professionals over years of research and experience.
Why Does Wearable Technology Matter?
If asked to assume what the world’s leading cause of death is, you might think of cancer, but it is, in fact, cardiovascular disease (CVD), or heart disease.
It accounts for 31% of global deaths and 48% of deaths in Europe. The World Health Organisation and American Heart Association have set goals to reduce CVD mortality 25 % by 2025. It is an ambitious and challenging goal that, like any massive problem, requires evidence-based, scalable and affordable solution. Mobile solutions seem to be exactly what is needed with wearable technology having already paved the way for improvements in a variety of areas of our lives.
Wearable tech has actually been around for much longer than you would think. The first example of a wearable in its modern sense was the calculator wristwatch introduced in 1975 by Hewlett Packard. A truly significant step was made with the introduction of Bluetooth headsets in year 2000, followed by collaboration of Nike and Apple, which enabled users to turn their iPods into fitness trackers in 2006 and the first FitBit, released in 2009. Year 2014 was dubbed by many the Year of Wearables, which, not necessarily being the official term, did go in line with the prevailing hype that surrounded wearable tech at that time.
A few years have passed, but the upward trends remain. According to a survey into digital health conducted in the USA in 2017, about 25% of consumers own a wearable, up from 12% in 2015. Moreover, 46% of consumers are now considered active digital health adopters, having used at least three different digital health tools (e.g. telemedicine, wearables). According to another survey conducted in 2016, along with the majority of consumers surveyed (59%), who cited that they use their devices for fitness, quite a staggering number of 36% use them for symptom navigation and diagnosing. We see that eHealth has reached a tipping point and that people are increasingly more interested in being in charge of their own health condition and that they want the mystery of diagnosing and treatment deciphered.
What we get is a metaphoric scale with clear principles of a successful eHealth behavior change intervention (e.g. creating a dynamic human experience, personalizing to the individual, providing a supportive environment, and building upon sound theory) on one end of the scale, and consumers, who are willing to know more about their hearts and health overall, but who have no means for that, on the other one. This is where we want to make a difference, simply by giving people a deeper insight and creating a meaningful connection between consumers and healthcare professionals.