What’s in a Name?


From a patient’s perspective, the field of healthcare is notorious for it’s complex terms and seemingly infinite and ever changing acronyms. Clinicians are no stranger to adapting to this evolution either. With differences in nomenclature at the regional, institutional, and specialty levels, it can be difficult for anyone to navigate through the glossary of medicine. This becomes even more evident when new names and ideas are introduced in the form of new technologies available to the patient and care-giver alike. In fact, the Joint Commission has an official “Do Not Use” list for abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols in healthcare. You may have seen similar posters to the one below in your own doctor’s office in the past.

Fun right? Before engaging in serious discourse on ICT in personalized healthcare – we must define and understand what it all means. I will present many of the current descriptors and definitions used for the modern technologies transforming the healthcare ICT market. Proceed with caution, these names may be irrelevant in the future.

These definitions have been curated from their respective wikipedia articles or offered by current leaders in this space. Sources are provided as links for each term. Let’s dive in:

Information and communications technology (ICT) is often used as an extended synonym for information technology (IT), but is a more specific term that stresses the role of unified communications[1] and the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage, and audio-visual systems, which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.

Health information technology (HIT) is information technology applied to health care. It provides the umbrella framework to describe the comprehensive management of health information across computerized systems and its secure exchange between consumers, providers, government and quality entities, and insurers.

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance.

Telehealth is the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies.

Wireless Health is the integration of wireless technology into traditional medicine, such as diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of illness, as well as other tools that can help individuals improve their personal health and wellbeing.

eHealth (also written e-health) is a relatively recent term for healthcare practice supported by electronic processes and communication, dating back to at least 1999.

mHealth (also written as m-health) is an abbreviation for mobile health, a term used for the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices.

Digital Health is the convergence of both the digital and genetics revolutions with health and healthcare.

medtechpres note: this is my preferred term as it does a fantastic job of intertwining all of the above mentioned concepts. 

This list could go on and on. Every facet of technology is touching healthcare: the cloud, big data, augmented reality, social media, electronic health records, the quantified self, wearables, smart devices, and so on. I’ll do my best to explain any additional abbreviations and terminology that make its way into my posts, but please feel free to interact with me if you’d like to learn more.

As time goes on we will delve into these ideas further and explore the current innovations coming from each. Specifically we will focus on how these play a vital role in information and communications technology and their impact on personalized healthcare delivery. I hope you’ll be inspired to join me on this journey into a field that is rapidly progressing yet still in its infancy…the time to get involved is now.



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