What is eHealth?

The RCN defines eHealth (sometimes called digital health) as concerned with promoting, empowering and facilitating health and wellbeing with individuals, families and communities, and the enhancement of professional practice through the use of information management and information and communication technology (ICT).

There is more to eHealth than just technology. It is about finding, using, recording, managing, and transmitting information to support health care, in particular to make decisions about patient care. Computers (and other ICT devices) are merely the technology that enables this to happen.

eHealth covers:

  • electronic patient records (including assessment and care planning, electronic nurse prescribing, patient scheduling, online laboratory requests/results, e-pharmacy, clinical communications such as discharge/ transfer letters) 
  • electronic communication with patients and professionals (includes telephone support/advice lines, email, SMS text messaging) 
  • telehealth/telecare (e.g. remote monitoring, video consultations, including service re-design, equipment management, etc)
  • information management (reusing data recorded for care purposes to improve care, run clinical services, health care research, patient informed decision making, etc) 
  • information governance (covers confidentiality, system security and data protection, data quality)
  • Personal health records (a repository of information considered by the individual to be relevant to his or her health, wellness, development and welfare, and for which that individual has primary control over the record’s content). 

Given the inevitability of health care ICT, it is important that nursing staff, from front line workers to leaders, embrace the agenda and play a key role in it, meeting the needs of the profession, patients and health care.

You can read more about the opportunities, technologies and design issues involved here.

The eHealth forum

The forum has the role of providing an effective voice on eHealth matters. It:

  • shapes eHealth policies for safer and better care.
  • supports members to use ICT with confidence and competence.
  • enables opportunities for discussion and learning about ICT.
  • provides support to the nursing team.

You can learn more about the eHealth forum’s work here.

For regular eHealth news and updates, visit the Quality and Safety eBulletin's eHealth page. If you would like to receive regular updates by email, sign up to the Quality and Safety eBulletin.

A definition of eHealth

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines eHealth as "the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related field, including health care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge and research."