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Comparing Colleague Definitions of Digital Health

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In 2020, I reviewed colleague definitions of “Digital Health” (in alpha order), as follows, below. 

Comparing Definitions

In terms of the broadest description, I enjoyed this one provided by Sharat Israni  Exec Dir & CTO, Bakar Computational Health Science Institute, UCSF. When I asked him how he defined digital health, he replied, “That which is not paper-based.” and went on to say that it is just about all aspects of health care. His comment is not far from the definition on the Startup Health website, What was once defined as “digital health” is converging across all health sectors – in other words: digital health = health

Between a paper-based system and “everything,” however, I believe that there lies a definition that will help us evaluate the new options, which is important in determining where we will, as an industry, invest our time, money and take a risk, as patients, in order to shape an industry that has a truly beneficial effect on society. I agree that there is a danger in combining two industries that have not, traditionally, spoken the same language, as Robert Wachter proclaims in his book Digital Doctor, and who has advocated for improved cross-pollination across these two sectors. I believe that the more all of us pay attention and ask ourselves about the quality of digital health solutions, the more we can focus on the ones that will leave a long-lasting impact.

Colleague Definitions:

  1. HIMSS defines digital health, March 2020:  HIMSS is releasing a new definition of digital health to serve as a benchmark for the global health community: Digital health connects and empowers people and populations to manage health and wellness, augmented by accessible and supportive provider teams working within flexible, integrated, interoperable and digitally-enabled care environments that strategically leverage digital tools, technologies and services to transform care delivery.
  2. JP Morgan 2020/CNBC Article Jan 2020: “Some attendees felt the lack of a clear definition for “digital health” might be hurting the sector. Digital health is broadly considered the intersection of health and technology, but the term is so overused and over-hyped, it’s no longer clear what it means.”
  3. MD-Disrupt: Healthtech is defined as the application of technology to solve problems in healthcare—think wearables, apps, cellphones, connected devices,  software, databases, etc.  It can also include medical devices, personalized medicine, and even at-home testing solutions.  
  4. Rock Health 2013: at the intersection of healthcare and technology; and not solely in medicine, but across healthcare, including wellness and administration. 
  5. Rock Health Definition 2020: What types of platforms are out there? There are already many—and they are continually evolving, with new ones emerging. We expect that state of flux to last for the next few years. Rock Health Definition 2020 Q3 Report: Rock Health defines digital health as the intersection of healthcare and technology. This means that the venture funding tracked only includes technology-enabled health-related companies, whether they focus on the administration of healthcare, the delivery of healthcare, or the process of bringing breakthrough new healthcare products to market (both R&D and commercialization).
  6. The Stanford Center for Digital Health: We define digital health broadly, using it to describe digital information or data and communications technologies to collect, share, and manipulate health information to improve patient health and healthcare delivery (Turakhia, Desai, & Harrington, 2016). This definition therefore encompasses a wide variety of software and data technologies (e.g., data science, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, electronic health records (EHRs), virtual and augmented reality), hardware (e.g., smartphones, tablets, computers, health trackers, wearable technologies, sensors, medical devices), and services or solutions (e.g., video conferencing, mHealth apps, remote monitoring). 
  7. Startup HealthWhat was once defined as “digital health” is converging across all health sectors – in other words: digital health = health.

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