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What’s in a name?

I won’t take too much of your time this week, as it’s the Easter break and I’m sure you and I would rather spend time with our families.  So it’s a light-hearted look at the terminology around mHealth, prompted by some research I was doing for an event in London later this month on ‘mHealth – hope or hype?’.

Words, words, words

Speaking personally, I don’t get too worked up around the definitions and terminology for mHealth, digital health, ehealth, call it what you will.  I tend to think that prescriptive definitions get in the way of understanding (see my earlier blog on the subject of ‘What is mHealth anyway?’).  I think they all overlap to a large extent and one person’s mHealth is another person’s telemedicine.  However I’m also aware that some of my peers get very attached to their pet term and insist on others following suit.  So just for fun I thought I’d have a look at the terms people look for when they’re online.

Firstly I had a look at Google, still the king of the search engines.  This graph shows relative search volume for key terms in the month of March 2014 (Google don’t publish absolute volumes) mhealth digital health ehealth telehealth

From this we can see that eHealth is the clear leader, which I would have expected, given it is probably the most mature term, encompassing all forms of ICT in healthcare.  But mHealth/mobile health (mobile health is actually the preferred term on Google it seems) aren’t far behind, whereas telehealth and digital health are some way back.

I then turned to Twitter, drawing data from the nice folk at Symplur, and here the results are perhaps surprising – #mhealth as a hashtag was used more often in the same period than #ehealth, #digitalhealth and #telehealth combined.


So what does this tell us?  Maybe that Twitter is the place where the mHealth aficionados get together?  Or maybe that mHealth has become a term that captures the zeitgeist better than others?

Actions speak louder

I really wouldn’t draw too many conclusions, as I’ve said before I don’t think it matters at all whether you call it mHealth, digital health, telehealth or ehealth, it’s what you do that matters.  If I have offended anyone who is more passionate about these terms than I am, I plead for your forgiveness.  I wish you a peaceful break and as always, feel free to comment or contact me.

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