Enabling Guidelines for the Adoption of eHealth Solutions: Scoping Review

JMIR Form Res. 2021 Apr 30;5(4):e21357. doi: 10.2196/21357.


Background: Globally, public health care is under increasing pressure, an economic burden currently amplified by the COVID-19 outbreak. With the recognition that universal health coverage improves the health of a population and reduces health inequalities, universal health coverage has been acknowledged as a priority goal. To meet the global needs in a population with increased chronic illness and longer life expectancy, the health care system is in dire need of new, emerging technologies. eHealth solutions as a method of delivery may have an impact on quality of care and health care costs. As such, it is important to study methods previously used to avoid suboptimal implementation and promote general guidelines to further develop eHealth solutions.

Objective: This study aims to explore and thematically categorize a selected representation of early phase studies on eHealth technologies, focusing on papers that are under development or undergoing testing. Further, we want to assess enablers and barriers in terms of usability, scaling, and data management of eHealth implementation. The aim of this study to explore early development phase and feasibility studies was an intentional effort to provide applicable guidelines for evaluation at different stages of implementation.

Methods: A structured search was performed in PubMed, MEDLINE, and Cochrane to identify and provide insight in current eHealth technology and methodology under development and gain insight in the future potential of eHealth technologies.

Results: In total, 27 articles were included in this review. The clinical studies were categorized thematically by illness comparing 4 technology types deemed relevant: apps/web-based technology, sensor technology, virtual reality, and television. All eHealth assessment and implementation studies were categorized by their focus point: usability, scaling, or data management. Studies assessing the effect of eHealth were divided into feasibility studies, qualitative studies, and heuristic assessments. Studies focusing on usability (16/27) mainly addressed user involvement and learning curve in the adoption of eHealth, while the majority of scaling studies (6/27) focused on strategic and organizational aspects of upscaling eHealth solutions. Studies focusing on data management (5/27) addressed data processing and data sensitivity in adoption and diffusion of eHealth. Efficient processing of data in a secure manner, as well as user involvement and feedback, both throughout small studies and during upscaling, were the important enablers considered for successful implementation of eHealth.

Conclusions: eHealth interventions have considerable potential to improve lifestyle changes and adherence to treatment recommendations. To promote efficient implementation and scaling, user involvement to promote user-friendliness, secure and adaptable data management, and strategical considerations needs to be addressed early in the development process. eHealth should be assessed during its development into health services. The wide variation in interventions and methodology makes comparison of the results challenging and calls for standardization of methods.

Keywords: eHealth; feasibility; global health; implementation.

Publication types

  • Review