The Definition of Digital Health

There is no one definition of Digital Health, but in light of the increased use of the concept in recent years – and often with emphasis more on the technological side than on the human experience – it has become crucial to gain a pulse of its proverbial carotid artery without pressing too hard so-to-speak, lest the brain suffer oxygen-depletion (please don’t do that btw).

Several months ago, I wrote a white paper on Digital Health (currently unpublished), when I realized a clear definition of Digital Health – and its subsidiary concepts such as Digital Medicine, mHealth, Social Health (hcsm), HITsm, etc., was essential in developing intelligent frameworks with which to work. (I’ll explain how their inter-relationships work with each other and the hiearchical structures in a future post.)

I wanted a definition that was at once relatively short and sufficiently thorough to capture the holistic dynamism of what Digital Health means (or *aught* to mean).

So here is what made the most sense for me to write:

Digital Health is the collaborative integration of disparate technologies into Healthcare to prevent, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and to encourage, measure, track, and support wellness. It is – above all – about people, not things.

It is this last part “It is – above all – about people, not things” which must be the focus of discussions about Digital Health and its ethical, moral, technical, political, legal, clinical, commercial, and human ramifications.

Now, any definition of Digital Health can go on and on and on – for example, we could include mentions that it involves not just how consumers can empower themselves but also how *all* parties are involved: how Digital Health also empowers providers to deliver better care and enables innovators to produce novel solutions to ancient problems . But I think I’ll leave what I have there because we need something that is open enough to imply derivatives – that’s the great thing about Digital Health: there’s plenty of empty design space to fill with creativity and diligence in the coming years.

Buzzwords can kill us – but if they at least convey meaning that corresponds to something real, I suppose we might as well make the most of them.

Too often, discussions about Digital Health and its related categories and topics, especially on Twitter, have over-focused (even fetishized) the technology at the expense of how everything comes together within overall processes that ultimately should benefit people – not feed an addiction to shiny new things.