HOLISTIC HEALTH: WHAT IS CONNECTED HEALTH?

  ©The University of Arizona

©The University of Arizona

The World Health Organisation ('WHO') defines ”electronic health ('eHealth') as the use of Information and Communication Technology for healthcare purposes“. According to the European Commission eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020, it encompasses a range of services and systems that cover "the interaction between patients and health-service providers, institution-to-institution transmission of data, or peer-to-peer communication between patients and/or health professionals“. eHealth can benefit citizens and patients, professionals, but also organisations and public authorities. When applied effectively, it has the potential to deliver a more personalised and costumer-centred healthcare, which is more targeted and efficient.

The WHO criticises the mismatch between the performance of these systems paired with “rising expectations of society”. In their report 'Everybody’s Business', the WHO touches on the fact that people’s health is no longer solely outsourced to professionals, but it is up to the individual to be responsible for it. This means making the right lifestyle choices, and allowing technology and data to help transform the way we treat personal health and interact with healthcare systems. This crossover between lifestyle and medicine is crucial if the concept of connected health is to succeed. However, the ability to directly connect with healthcare providers for informing and managing health conditions still presents many challenges. Seamlessly integrating mHealth with Electronic Medical Records ('EMRs') is still complex, as and data and privacy policies are hard to overcome. There is a need to enhance communication amongst network operators, equipment suppliers, software developers and healthcare professionals to build a coherent value chain for mobile health, in order to transform and improve the health service delivery across the globe.

Mobile health covers “medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants, and other wireless devices”. It can empower patients and carers by giving them more control over their health by enabling them to use digital technology to research information online, share experiences and identify treatment options. Its use in providing access to information and education is an important driver of patient engagement. Today, there are around 165,000 health-related apps, which run on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. PwC forecasts that by the end of 2017 they will have been downloaded 1.7 billion times. Those include mobile applications from coaching to prevention, screening, diagnosis, monitoring, therapeutic education, adaptation of care and orientation toward treatments. They are intended to directly or indirectly maintain or improve healthy habits, quality of life and wellbeing of individuals. mHealth allows the collection of medical, physiological, lifestyle, daily activity and environmental data that could serve as a basis for personalised care and research activities. Whilst mHealth is not intended to replace healthcare professionals, who will remain playing a central role in health cycle, it shall be seen as another elementary part of the healthcare supply-chain and customer journey.