There are many definitions of e-health. (1) In 2001 Eysenbach defined e-health as "an emerging field in the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business, referring to health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies. In a broader sense, the term characterizes not only a technical development, but also a state-of-mind, a way of thinking, an attitude, and a commitment for networked, global thinking, to improve health care locally, regionally and worldwide by using information and communication technology." (2)
The field has since evolved; the potential of e-health to help strengthen health systems and to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of care was recognized by the World Health Assembly in its resolution on e-health in 2005. (3) This has raised high expectations from all stakeholders, many of which are still unmet. New e-health solutions are continually being designed, implemented and evaluated around the world. From what evidence base, if any, are these solutions developed? Can e-health solutions truly improve health equity? What types of disparities do they minimize or exacerbate? How are health systems and their governance influenced by these e-health solutions, policies and practices?
Evidence is needed (4) to promote equity of access to information and health services, and to strengthen activities and programmes that support local, regional, national and global health communities. There is a critical need to communicate evidence and to provide examples of best practice in the development of effective and efficient solutions to major health challenges. These could include: governance and multisectoral engagement, funding systems, system architectures, information systems implementation, capacity building, and areas such as equity in health systems, strategic planning, policy and regulatory frameworks, infrastructures, human capital development and system and data interoperability.
The first objective of this theme issue of the Bulletin is to provide an authoritative, critical and independent overview of knowledge about the appropriate, transdisciplinary methods and applications in e-health. There have been considerable developments and experiences--social, technical and political--in the field of e-health in the past several years. This theme issue aims to provide a credible source of evidence, authored by individuals representing different parts of the world, to help inform decisions on e-health and its application. It will draw on examples from around the world of the successes of health informatics. We welcome papers for the research and systematic review sections of the Bulletin and encourage authors to consider contributions that document evidence of impact of e-health methods and tools. Suggested domains include: governance and management of health systems; equity of access to health care; transferable and sustainable economic models; health policy development; information sharing and interoperability to improve the quality, efficiency and continuity of care; information collection and aggregation for public health support; and health workforce development. …