How Do We Agree on A Definition for Digital Health? - Results of a Systematic Scoping Literature Review


Zrubka Z1, Burrell A2, Redekop K3, Kolasa K4, Vinuesa L5, Zah V6, Asche CV7
1Óbuda University, Budapest, PE, Hungary, 2Anita Burrell Consulting, Flemington, NJ, USA, 3Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 4Kozminski University, Warszawa, Poland, 5Clarivate, London, LON, UK, 6Kozminski University, Warsaw Poland and Health Economist, CEO, ZRx Outcomes Research Inc., Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia, 7University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria, IL, USA

OBJECTIVES: Digital health has accelerated in the previous year mainly due to the pandemic, however, the term can mean different things to different people. We conducted a scoping review to provide an overview of definitions in systematic reviews including the context for their use e.g. public health organization, supplier organization, etc. to derive those which could be most appropriate for outcomes research.

METHODS: A literature search was undertaken for the past 5 years (2015-2020) on the major terms in digital health (n=38) alongside synonyms of definition as a key term and a filter for systematic reviews. Databases searched included Embase, PubMed/Medline, Cochrane Library and EconLit. Independent review by teams of 2 reviewers was employed for each abstract as well as the full papers with reconciliation of any misalignment by each team. Data on definitions employed for each term as well as the context for the definition was extracted into a recording spreadsheet.

RESULTS: Fifteen pairs of independent volunteers screened 2,610 abstracts (Embase: n=2263; PubMed: n=657, Cochrane n=35, EconLit: n=11), 10 pairs reviewed 545 full text articles and 7 teams independently reviewed the 214 eligible papers for data extraction. Altogether we found 337 definitions of which 154 were high level terms and 183 were secondary terms. “mHealth” was the most popular high level term 75 (18 original +57 referenced) followed by “eHealth” and “telehealth” with 48 (18+30), and 27 (2+25) total (original + referenced) definitions, respectively. Interestingly, only 4 definitions of “digital health” were noted in this study (1 original + 3 referenced).

CONCLUSION: The plethora of definitions within the field of digital health can be attributed to the number of original definitions in the literature. While there are some seminal references used (e.g. WHO), developments in technology as well as the adaptation to specific uses have driven this increase.

Conference/Value in Health Info

2021-05, ISPOR 2021, Montreal, Canada

Value in Health, Volume 24, Issue 5, S1 (May 2021)




Medical Technologies

Topic Subcategory

Digital Health


No Specific Disease

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