What is eHealth (6)? Development of a Conceptual Model for eHealth: Qualitative Study with Key Informants

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Journal Article
Journal of medical Internet research, 2017, 19 (10), pp. e324 - ?
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©Tim Shaw, Deborah McGregor, Melissa Brunner, Melanie Keep, Anna Janssen, Stewart Barnet. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 24.10.2017. BACKGROUND: Despite rapid growth in eHealth research, there remains a lack of consistency in defining and using terms related to eHealth. More widely cited definitions provide broad understanding of eHealth but lack sufficient conceptual clarity to operationalize eHealth and enable its implementation in health care practice, research, education, and policy. Definitions that are more detailed are often context or discipline specific, limiting ease of translation of these definitions across the breadth of eHealth perspectives and situations. A conceptual model of eHealth that adequately captures its complexity and potential overlaps is required. This model must also be sufficiently detailed to enable eHealth operationalization and hypothesis testing.OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to develop a conceptual practice-based model of eHealth to support health professionals in applying eHealth to their particular professional or discipline contexts.METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews with key informants (N=25) from organizations involved in health care delivery, research, education, practice, governance, and policy to explore their perspectives on and experiences with eHealth. We used purposeful sampling for maximum diversity. Interviews were coded and thematically analyzed for emergent domains.RESULTS: Thematic analyses revealed 3 prominent but overlapping domains of eHealth: (1) health in our hands (using eHealth technologies to monitor, track, and inform health), (2) interacting for health (using digital technologies to enable health communication among practitioners and between health professionals and clients or patients), and (3) data enabling health (collecting, managing, and using health data). These domains formed a model of eHealth that addresses the need for clear definitions and a taxonomy of eHealth while acknowledging the fluidity of this area and the strengths of initiatives that span multiple eHealth domains.CONCLUSIONS: This model extends current understanding of eHealth by providing clearly defined domains of eHealth while highlighting the benefits of using digital technologies in ways that cross several domains. It provides the depth of perspectives and examples of eHealth use that are lacking in previous research. On the basis of this model, we suggest that eHealth initiatives that are most impactful would include elements from all 3 domains.
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