Concern ranges across the sector from end-users to policy-makers. And rightfully so – we have swiftly stumbled upon an era of personalised digital healthcare and we seem to either be creating the norms and rules on the go, or to completely lag behind as small research-based DHI projects deal with the whims of tech-giants.
But who should be concerned with these aspects of eHealth?
Answering this question may shed light on clinicians’ common concern: ‘To recommend, or not to recommend an app for that?’
Surely similar questions have been posed since Hippocrates. As medicine formed, evolved and adopted the scientific method, a line was drawn between superstition and intervention; responsibilities and regulation were established. The treatment of serious diseases required extensive research and regulation, while treatment of the common cold remained with the patients and thus ranges from hot tea and balms to a bottle of whiskey: to each their own.
Similarly with eHealth, the severity of the problem dictates the complexity of the DHI and the need for regulation. Consumers should expect that serious eHealth interventions are developed and published by experts in the area, undergo rigorous trials and are scrutinised by competent regulatory bodies before hitting the market. In reality, regulatory bodies do not yet exist, conducting rigorous trials in eHealth is harder than anticipated and any developer who uses Google as their health information source can pose as an ‘expert’ with no repercussions.
While a little research can go a long way, as consumers we tend to research less when it comes to entrusting our health to an app then, say, when we shop for car insurance. Thankfully, our research does not need to be too labour-intensive.