The use of E-health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a case study in China's Hubei province

Health Sociol Rev. 2022 Nov;31(3):215-231. doi: 10.1080/14461242.2021.1941184. Epub 2021 Jun 23.


Globally, the use of e-health has accelerated dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. Based on both quantitative and qualitative data collected in China's Hubei province (i.e. the first epicentre of COVID-19), this research explores how the pandemic influences the practices of e-health from the perspective of users. Through analysis of 1,033 surveys and 14 in-depth interviews, we find that e-health has played a crucial role in residents' healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain external factors influence the choice of digital health, including the high risk of infection outdoors, the shutting down of transport systems, and dysfunctional healthcare facilities that neglect non-COVID-19 patients' clinical demands. Against this backdrop, we argue digital health acts as a functional equivalent to traditional medical treatment and has largely satisfied patients and users in the crisis period. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has unintentionally sped up the diffusion of digital medicine over the long term as respondents expressed their willingness to continue use of e-health in the post-COVID-19 phase. However, we assert that despite the increasing use of e-health, it cannot fully substitute traditional offline treatment. Thus, we suggest a combination of online and offline healthcare will be more commonly practiced in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; China; Digitalisation; e-health; medicine; online.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • China / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine*