eHealth vs. mHealth: What’s The Difference?

By Rae Steinbach on March 2, 2020

In the past few years, disease prevention and treatment have been greatly enhanced through the use of eHealth and mHealth tools. Although the two are different in both practical application and theory, they have a similar objective: to improve the quality, accessibility, cost, and efficiency of healthcare. In this article, we’ll look at the definition of eHealth and mHealth, as well as exploring their main differences. 

Definition of eHealth and mHealth

mHealth definition 

mHealth is a term that refers to mobile applications that are designed to provide information to both patients and their care team. These applications can do things like monitor prescription adherence, log the patient’s heart rate, and track fitness levels. Examples include Fitbit, Google Fit, Samsung Health, and Apple Heart Study.

eHealth definition 

eHealth as a term, on the other hand, refers to products that are not so much “applications” as they are systems. They are made to deliver health services through electronic means. These systems create the infrastructure to provide health records, patient files, lab results, and general administration needs online. Examples include myhealthrecord and Kaiser Permanente’s online health portal. 

A Few Key Differences Between eHealth and mHealth Devices

Ease of Development

In general, setting up an mHealth application can become very complex. mHealth applications can be programmed to coordinate with a wide array of devices and do an endless number of complex tasks. eHealth applications vary in their complexity but have the potential to be simpler, self-contained programs.

When it comes to mHealth regulation, it’s been found that over 150 countries do not have any regulatory framework in place for these applications. Currently, the European Union and the United States are working on improving their regulatory framework, focusing on applications that could have disastrous results should something malfunction. While there are better frameworks in place for eHealth regulation, developers of both types of systems must consider the ethical and safety implications of their systems. 

Another factor that plays into the development of both eHealth and mHealth is the security risks involved. mHealth by definition is much more likely to pose a security risk due to the sensitive information it collects from users and the fact that they have to access and store medical data outside the boundaries or firewalls of a hospital or clinics network. Meanwhile, eHealth poses less of a risk as it is more of a general application and is less likely to store sensitive material. This means that when creating mHealth applications, developers must be vigilant and take plenty of time, energy, and resources, to invest in the security of the application. As a result, this can lengthen and complicate the process. 

Personal Experience 

One of the main goals of eHealth and mHealth app development is to create a personal, tailored experience for users. mHealth apps tend to greatly excel over eHealth solutions in this department. The main reason for this is that mHealth applications can be (and most often are) accessed using personal devices such as smartphones, fitness trackers, watches, and tablets. Doctors can send patients personal files like prescriptions, photos, and recommendations for at-home treatment via these mHealth devices. eHealth by definition is not designed for this, as it is more often used on public computers and workstations where it could be dangerous to store personal information. 

While they are not as personal, eHealth applications are ideal for web-based data entry such as the completion of public records relating to global health emergencies, potential outbreaks, and pandemics. In fact, there are several studies that suggest that eHealth would be helpful in monitoring malaria in East Africa. 

Number of Users

More people in today’s society have a smartphone than they do a desktop computer. In fact, five billion people have at least one smartphone. Due to this, it makes sense that mHealth, being the mobile-friendly collection of applications that it is, has more users. 

In examining the definition of eHealth and mHealth in terms of user growth and viability, mHealth has been the subject of development across various nations within recent years. eHealth has not been growing as quickly, but does seem to be gaining popularity within low-income areas such as developing countries. Here, eHealth can do wonders for the societies in which it is implemented. 

For example, South Africa’s Project Masiluleke sends one million short text messages per day reminding users to get tested and be treated for HIV/AIDS. These messages are sent using local languages and include directions to local testing and treatment centers. 

Accessibility and Flexibility

As its name might suggest, mHealth (mobile health) is predominantly designed to be used on “pocket devices”. These, as we briefly mentioned, can include any kind of smart device that fits into a pocket or purse. Common mHealth devices include smartphones, fitness trackers like Fitbit, smartwatches, tablets, and PDAs. 

mHealth in its definition can effectively be “anchored” to people, as billions of people around the world have smartphones and other pocket devices. eHealth is not as flexible in terms of where it can be used, since eHealth systems are usually confined to one or two relatively basic devices that may be stationary. Most commonly, eHealth is used on desktop computers such as those found on the desks in doctor’s offices and hospitals. However, some mHealth apps have been configured to transmit data from pocket devices to larger health systems, effectively combining the definition of eHealth and mHealth. 

Examples of eHealth and mHealth Applications

An Example of eHealth: myhealthrecord.com

how myhealthrecord exemplifies the definition of ehealth and mhealth

Myhealthrecord.com is a web-based eHealth application that allows users to manage virtually every aspect of their care and health. Through the website, they can monitor current and previous medications, book appointments, change physicians, view records such as immunizations and lab results, and send both documents and messages to health care professionals. 

A few of the benefits of the site – and what has come to be a signature aspect of the eHealth definition – is that it is secure, convenient, and can be accessed from any desktop or laptop computer. Users have their own accounts with secure usernames and passwords. While the site can be accessed on a mobile device, its interface is designed more for the desktop experience.

An Example of mHealth: Fitbit 

fitbit as example of the definition of ehealth and mhealth

Fitbit is a great example of what defines an mHealth device. It is a wearable technology known as a “fitness tracker” that gives users a way to monitor their activity levels on a day-to-day basis. Fitbits are worn on the wrist and look like modern watches, but they can track heart rate, number of steps taken per day, and sleep data including how many hours a user has slept and been awake in a given night. The user can also input additional information into the app, including their water and food intake.

One of the key benefits of Fitbits is that they are mobile and accessible anywhere. They are small, compact, and serve various useful functions that can aid in the overall health of their wearer. The user can explore their health data at any time, either from the mHealth device interface itself or from the mobile app. 

Fitbit provides a very personal experience that gets people excited about recording and tracking their health data, which can have numerous positive effects on the user’s health and health awareness. 

Which Technology Should You Use?

eHealth systems are often chosen by healthcare providers that need to communicate basic information back and forth with their patients. They are also often chosen for systems that allow healthcare professionals to communicate with each other, such as in the case of tracking national or global health-related data. If the basic functionality of an eHealth system is all that’s needed, it can be quicker to get set up via this route.

On the other hand, mHealth applications provide more opportunities to connect with patients and get them involved in their own healthcare. Innovative providers are choosing this route in order to create systems that are highly intuitive, accessible, and engaging to patients. 

Blue Label Labs Helps You Get the Most Out of an eHealth or mHealth App

At the end of the day, both technologies have their benefits. When used together, they can improve healthcare systems with the push of a button or click of the mouse. Both mHealth and eHealth are growing in popularity and scope, with the incentives of joining the initiative becoming even greater for both providers and patients. The overall goal of building a healthcare app is great patient care and a solid healthcare system, and by definition, both eHealth and mHealth systems can help accomplish that goal. 

If you’re ready to create an eHealth or mHealth app, look to the experts at Blue Label Labs. We have extensive experience developing medical and healthcare-related apps, so talk to us today about your project idea.