eHealth or e-health refers to the use of technology in health care, including information, communications, and treatment. Falling under the umbrella of e-health are the use of electronic and digital devices and processes, health-care apps and links, online interaction with health professionals, Internet-based programs, phone-based interventions and programs, peer support services, health informatics, and the use of pioneering technologies such as interactive voice response (IVR). Related terms are m-health or mHealth, telemedicine, telehealth, and cybermedicine. eHealth is used for physical health and mental health.
In fact, the new millennium has ushered in the phenomenon of a cyber doctor or cyber physician, who does consultation and treatment via the Internet without meeting patients face-to-face. This practice can include phone, fax, or online medical consultation, as well as drug prescription.
One area in which eHealth has become more prevalent is mental health or e-mental health, which includes practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological counseling, clinical social work, individual counseling, group support, and family therapy.
With the advantages of being easily accessible and anonymous, some of the e-health conditions treated include:
* Mood disorders (depression)
* Anxiety disorders
* Eating disorders
* Smoking cessation
* Family therapy
* Marriage counseling
Some successful online health-care programs include the use of interactive text and video for the treatment of eating disorders, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders. Online programs helping people quit smoking guide participants through a series of modules and assignments that must be completed as participants prepare to quit, stop smoking, and prevent relapse. Some of these programs are even personalized, establishing a smoking cessation plan based upon user responses to questions about their smoking history and habits.
E-health has also targeted problematic gambling via online self-directed therapy workbooks that include the use of digital devices (smartphones) to self-monitor urges and behaviors, cognitive and behavioral strategies to reduce and quit gambling, and receiving motivational emails and text reminders of goals.
In 2009, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, a four-month Internet-based disaster recovery program was developed, wherein participants were offered information regarding effective coping strategies to manage mental health and risk behavior. For more information about e-mental health services, one cam visit the International Society for Mental Health Online.
As with all new technologies, concerns arise with experience and over time. In the case of e-health, there is an increasing awareness of issues such as:
* Patient (user) privacy and confidentiality
* Appropriate handling of user data
* Protection of data from unauthorized access
* Treatment credibility
* Need for better cyber-security
* Need for better regulation
* Safe storage of data