DHOx Blog

Latest news and views on digital health and health technology

Defining Digital Health

When asked what 'digital health' is, it's easy to think that it's self-explanatory. However, it isn't hard to find a huge number of definitions, some very narrow, others incredibly broad. They include:

  • the implementation of electronic health records within care systems;
  • increased efficiency of interaction/information dissemination between patients and clinicians through mobile phones;
  • the proliferation of new sensors and wearable technology; the use of big data;
  • machine learning and AI to interpret and analyse complex health data;
  • the implementation of personalised and/or precision medicine through the use of computers and genomics.

I think that the exact definition doesn't matter too much. It will mean different things to different people, depending on their expertise, experience and area of interest, or even geographical location. These definitions are also likely to change over time. Rather, the interesting, and exciting, thing is the appreciation of the vast array of topics, work and possibilities that are now open to people working in this field, and those who will be beneficiaries. The field of digital health offers the potential for greater understanding of health and the underlying biological mechanisms, and through overlapping or distinct processes, implementation of that new knowledge or process(es), translated into improvements in healthcare, outcomes, service, public health and wellbeing. All through leveraging of increased computational power and associated technologies, whether software or hardware.

If you're reading this, you may have seen the below infographics before, but if you haven't, they're both really nice summaries of various components of digital health, which further highlight the breadth and scope of the field. Further recommended reading/watching on this topic can also be found at Paul Sonnier's Story of Digital Health website, and also of course (whilst taking care to refer to primary sources! :) ) Wikipedia.

The field of Digital Health is cross disciplinary and cross-sector by its very nature. The majority of topics within this field will require expertise from multiple specialities and professions. Due to this fact, Digital Health Oxford has always strived to be specifically cross-sector and cross-disiplinary, with the aim of helping to facilitate the interactions and collaborations that are necessary within this field. No matter what your definition, the most important factor, as with anything, is people, networks and working together to make this promising future (and present!) a reality.

[Clickable image available at]

[Image originally from Paul Sonnier's]

Posted in General on Dec 03, 2016