E-health refers to the use of web-enabled systems and processes to accomplish some combination of the following goals:
- Improve or enhance medical care
- Improve patient involvement in their medical care and their overall satisfaction with the health care experience
- Streamline operations and business practices
- Control expenditures.
A large number of e-health initiatives are underway by leaders in health care, government and hi-tech industries, in an attempt to harness the benefits of combining technology, the internet and health care. The expansion of e-health capabilities will allow medicine and technology to meet, and conquer the same challenges faced by other industries over the past 20 years: 1) the capability of consumers to obtain, view or interact with their information online and 2) improved possibilities for the electronic exchange of data. In other words, providers will be able to communicate with their patients and each other in ways that are more efficient and that could offer access to more accurate information that will positively affect the overall healthcare experience.
Increasing evidence and documentation in the literature show that electronic systems and processes are truly the vehicle by which healthcare can broaden the accessibility of applications, facilitate user exchange of information, and collapse time, distance, and the "information divide" to better deliver care to the patient population.
The CMS strategic plan for the next few years is focused on achieving a transformed and modernized health care system for the 21st century. CMS will support the transformation of the health care system to one through which patients and providers can make informed decisions together about the most effective medical care, based on timely access to the latest evidence. The transformed system will include, among other things, secure electronic records, e-prescribing, the development of an integrated data repository to improve access to quality data, and the meaningful use of electronic records to positively affect the quality of patient care.