In the 21st century, digital innovations have transformed healthcare in ways we could never have dreamed of. From virtual doctor’s appointments to online counseling, emerging technologies offer endless possibilities for quicker, better, and more involved patient journeys.
Digital healthcare uses information and computer technology (ICT) to improve and advance patient care in diverse ways, and this article explores just a few of its amazing applications. Read on to learn more about what digital health involves, the key technologies practitioners utilize, and discover some great examples of digital healthcare in practice.
What is Digital Healthcare?
As the medical and mental healthcare industry evolves, innovative solutions have emerged and transformed to meet our changing needs.
Digital Healthcare is a catch-all term for the advanced ways that healthcare is now delivered, primarily online, and the advanced – often computerized – equipment used to diagnose, evaluate, manage, and treat patients in the modern age.
…the cultural transformation of how disruptive technologies that provide digital and objective data accessible to both caregivers and patients leads to an equal level doctor–patient relationship with shared decision–making and the democratization of care.
Defining Digital Psychology
As with conventional healthcare, the field of digital healthcare encompasses different specialties. A wide variety of services, solutions, and service delivery frameworks specifically address the e-mental health of patients with psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and more.
Under this umbrella are modern solutions such as:
- Telepsychology and Telepsychotherapy
- e-Counseling, Online Therapy, and e-Therapy
- Telepsychiatry, and
- Other virtual care services designed to improve the health and well-being of patients with mental health symptoms and conditions.
For the large part, digital psychology treatments are delivered online – either as part of a virtual care mental health program or in combination with conventional ‘face-to-face’ services. This makes them a broadly accessible way for individuals across demographics and geographic areas to receive important treatment that might otherwise not be feasible.
Digital Health, Wellness, and Coaching
Digital psychology is practiced by a similarly diverse sector of mental health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, and mental health coaches, and it also has a valuable role to play in organizations, schools, and communities at large.
It extends beyond the treatment of individuals with existing mental health conditions, encompassing preventative solutions to promote better mental health in populations more generally.
Mental health and wellness coaching are two great examples of digital health initiatives that meet these criteria. They can be delivered on a large scale to employees or as part of outreach programs, and integrate multiple elements of physical, psychological, and emotional well-being to address more individualized or organizational needs.
- Wellness Coaching to build motivation, enhance job satisfaction, and support the physical health of employees
- Mental Health Coaching that develops emotional resilience or stress management skills, and
- Outreach Programs to grow awareness and encourage the prevention of particular health conditions.
3+ Examples of Digital Healthcare
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses very specific definitions in defining what constitutes digital health technology:
Per the FDA, Mobile Platforms describe handheld, commercial, off-the-shelf digital platforms like smartphones, laptops, and smartphones, and Mobile Apps refer to the software run on them, or in a web browser.
This makes Mobile Medical Apps a subcategory of tools and solutions that are specifically designed to
- Prevent, or
- Treat an illness, and these can cover a wide range of digital clinical solutions, from LEDs to wearables and beyond.
For most telehealth professionals who offer blended care solutions, some common examples and their practical applications include:
- Therapy software: Software that can be used to carry out online therapy, e-counseling, or provide e-mental health services in realtime with clients, such as video conferencing tech, voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) solutions, or instant message technology like private chat rooms.
- Practice management systems: Including private practice software and e-clinic software that stores patient Electronic Health Records, handles medical billing, and processes insurance claims, and
- Smartphone apps: Which can deliver course content, resources, or collect and store data that is used for patient care (e.g. ESM ‘Mood Trackers’)
A Look At The Research: 5 Proven Benefits
E-health was borne out of the need for more cost-effective, high-quality, and widely accessible healthcare services.
According to the research, some of its other advantages include:
- Financial cost savings: Digital services often cost less for healthcare providers to roll out on a large scale, and the Stepped Care IAPT Initiative is a great illustration of this in practice. Often, they are a more affordable alternative to conventional treatments for patients, too.
- Improved health and safety: Many solutions minimize the likelihood of miscommunications, and consolidate important data such as Electronic Medical Records to avoid administrative errors.
- Improved decision-making: Virtual and computerized systems often collect, analyze, and process patient data, which medical professionals can then use to make important healthcare decisions.
- Reduced medical errors: In a similar way, digital clinical solutions and advanced technology have also been shown to decrease medical errors; resulting in
- More efficient, effective healthcare, at least for some applications, and in comparison to some conventional treatments.
Elsewhere on this site, we’ve explored the benefits of digital healthcare in great depth. For more detailed examples, advantages, and benefits, head to our our comprehensive exploration of Blended Care.
3 Digital Health Technology Solutions: Top Apps and Platforms
There are a host of digital health tools designed to make blended care practice more effective and efficient. With the right software, blended care practitioners can often free up valuable time for the most important thing – delivering quality mental healthcare.
Useful Tools for Your Practice
|AdvancedMD is an integrated, comprehensive suite of practice management tools – it consolidates all your administrative tasks, patient records, and more into one system. Key features include billing and invoice management, insurance claims processing, and session scheduling with the calendar tool.|
For telemental health practitioners interested in asynchronous therapy, the program supports secure text messaging and emails from within the app.
AdvancedMD’s main drawback, however, is that it lacks inbuilt video messaging tech – nor is it possible to instant chat with clients for live therapy sessions.
|Price||Available on request|
|Good For||Practice Management, Mental Health Coaching, EHR, EMR, Billing, Calendar Management|
|TheraNest is one of the more inclusive blended care solutions available to teletherapy providers such as psychologists, counselors, and e-therapists. It has an excellent range of mental health treatment plan templates to simplify customized service design and good electronic health record capabilities, as well as a mobile app and video conferencing for video sessions.|
Additionally, TheraNest is HIPAA-compliant for secure communications and document storage and supports group therapy sessions of up to 6 participants. The software offers a client portal, pre-configured ICD and DSM codes for faster progress notes, and is competitively priced.
|Good For||Practice Management, Telepsychology, EHR, EMR, Video Therapy|
Books and Podcasts On The Topic
In a field as dynamic as digital health, it’s little surprise that a wealth of books and podcasts have sprung up around the topic.
3 Top Books on Digital Health
Some great books that cover the evolution of digital health, its significance, and its advancements include:
- The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care. Written by Eric Topol, this is a deep dive into the ways mobile technology has changed lives and explores the role of digital technologies in personalized, lower-cost healthcare. It also looks at the medical community’s hesitance to adopt e-health, and includes the author’s own take on how innovative digital could continue to disrupt healthcare as we know it. (Amazon)
- The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age. Author Dr. Robert Wachter is a practitioner and thought leader in the field of medical technology; in this book he tackles issues such as difficulties with telemedical tech, risks with digital approaches, and the role of the government in this growing field. Written from a physician’s perspective, he also offers an optimistic, personal outlook on how telehealth will continue to change patient care. (Amazon)
- The Fourth Wave: Digital Health is an exploration of the rise of digital medicine from all kinds of perspectives – it’s relevant for consumers, businesses, healthcare professionals, and more. Paul Sonnier, the author, offers his point of view on genomics and telemedicine to paint a picture of the future of the industry. (Amazon)
E-health was borne out of the need for more cost-effective, high-quality, and widely accessible healthcare services.
3 Podcasts on Digital Health
Podcasts are a convenient way to stay up-to-date with the latest industry news and digital healthcare research. On top of this, they tend to be more regularly updated than journal publications, and frequently feature interviews with important names in the field.
These three podcasts cover emerging digital healthcare topics such as innovative applications, challenges, and new perspectives in virtual care.
- The Lancet Digital Health Podcast: Medical Journal The Lancet broadcasts its own podcast on key themes such as medical technology, big data, machine learning, and more in digital healthcare. Each podcast features a different guest interviewee for some fascinating insights into various industry trends and the latest advancements. Example topics include Automated deep learning design in medical diagnosis with Professor Pearse Keane and Health IT failures and their effect on patient care with British expert Guy Martin.
- The Pulse by Wharton Digital Health: Penn’s Wharton has a great digital healthcare podcast that was established by then-student Rohan Siddhanti in 2008. Its purpose is to connect MBAs with alumnis about cutting-edge digital healthcare trends, company initiatives, and jobs in the field. It offers a slightly different perspective on relevant topics in this sense, but still deep-dives into pertinent topics for blended and virtual care professionals.
- Digital Health Today: This resource offers four different podcasts, each hosted by a different presenter: the Digital Health Today 360, a Femtech Edition, an Asia Pacific Edition, and a Digital Therapeutics Edition. As well as covering telehealth technology, the podcasts cover topics such as program implementation challenges, sociocultural factors and health outcomes, and more. Digital Health Today is updated almost weekly.
3 Upcoming Conferences
|The International Conference on Mental Health Disorders and Healthcare will focus on topics such as digital health trends, new tech, and practical applications. It is hosted by the World Academy of Science, Engineering, and Technology.|
Specialists in Mental Health Disorders and Healthcare can present, listen, network, and participate in workshops. Submissions for papers are still open.
|Name||ICMHDH 2021: 15. International Conference on Mental Health Disorders and Healthcare|
|Date||February 25-26, 2021 in Sydney, Australia|
|The emergence of Digital Technologies in the Pharmaceutical Industry is the topic of this Corvus Digital Health Conference, which takes place in Hilton London Kensington in March 2021.|
This event is centered around novel technologies and developments changing the pharmaceutical industry, implementation of and advances in machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence, informatics, and data science, for e-health practitioners interested in improving healthcare.
|Name||4th Annual Digi-Tech Pharma & AI|
|Price||£750+ VAT for Early Bird Registration|
|Date||March 22-23, 2021 in London, United Kingdom|
|Another WASET conference is The International Conference on Digital Healthcare, to be held in New York.|
This event aims to unite academic scientists, scholars, and researchers in discussions on platforms, tools, advancements, and more in Digital Health. Other topics include Health IT, mHealth Technology, Digital Hospital, and Infrastructure for Healthcare.
|Name||ICDH 2021: 15. International Conference on Digital Healthcare|
|Date||January 28-29, 2021 in New York, United States|
With its many growth areas and applications, digital healthcare is an exciting field to be in. Whether you’re after software for your practice or want to learn more from a good book, this article should be a helpful starting point for your search.
We’d love to hear about your experiences or any recommendations you’d like to share with your fellow students, developers, or practitioners – do join the conversation below.
- ^ Meskó, B., Drobni, Z., Bényei, É., Gergely, B., & Győrffy, Z. (2017). Digital health is a cultural transformation of traditional healthcare. Mhealth, 3.
- ^ WHO. (20109). What you need to know about digital health systems. Retrieved from: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Health-systems/digital-health/news/news/2019/2/what-you-need-to-know-about-digital-health-systems
- ^ FDA. (2019). Policy for Device Software Functions and Mobile Medical Applications. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/policy-device-software-functions-and-mobile-medical-applications
- ^ Black, A. D., Car, J., Pagliari, C., Anandan, C., Cresswell, K., Bokun, T., & Sheikh, A. (2011). The impact of eHealth on the quality and safety of health care: a systematic overview. PLoS med, 8(1), e1000387.