Textbook of Digital Health Cover

Textbook of Digital Health

Your companion for studying digital health and informatics

Definition of Digital Health

From Chapter 1 of the "Textbook of Digital Health" by Dr Chris Paton:

“Digital health” is a difficult term to define. Many aspects of modern life went digital many years ago and we have since stopped referring to their digital aspects. This will probably soon be true for healthcare too. An e-Prescription will soon simply be called a prescription; a telemedicine consult will just be a plain-old consultation with your doctor; and digital radiology will stop making sense as the last physical radiograph is dipped in development fluid and hung up to dry. As we make this transition though, it is still important to differentiate between digital and non-digital tools that are used in healthcare, particularly when we are concerned with how human users interact with these tools.

The definition that I will use in this book defines digital health technologies (DHTs) as “information technology systems and applications used in the healthcare domain”. This includes systems used by healthcare providers in hospitals and clinics but also applications (apps) used by patients or individual clinicians on their own smartphones and other devices. These systems and applications are now commonly described (in government regulation in particular) as “Digital Health Technologies”.

So, at its simplest, digital health just refers to digital versions of the paper-based information systems that have been in place in hospitals, clinics, and patients’ homes for many years. Outside of the hospital's walls are a wide range of consumer smartphone apps (often linked to self-monitoring devices), government digital services, new AI-driven diagnostic systems, and research databases that all fall under the label of DHTs and are of interest to us in this thesis.

Paton, C (2024). Textbook of Digital Health.