Woman reading an IGHI cyber security report

What is digital healthcare?

Digital healthcare is a broad term used to describe the use of digital technologies in health and care. This could be anything from electronic (rather than paper) health records to smartphone apps and machines used to administer medications.

Such technologies are becoming increasingly present in the world of healthcare, which is why we must ensure that they’re treated and evaluated with the same integrity as any other healthcare intervention.

Why we research digital health

Digital technologies, such as apps and wearable devices, have shown great promise in transforming the way we deliver healthcare. But as a relatively new development in medicine, we must ensure that these technologies are used safely and effectively, and are based on robust scientific evidence. Our work seeks to address these issues, influencing digital health policy and practice across the globe. We evaluate the potential of digital technologies in healthcare, while developing innovative solutions to global health needs.

We’re a multi-disciplinary team including researchers, policy-makers, designers and clinicians working together on a range of digital health innovations.

Find out how our research is influencing the digital health sphere.

Highlights from our digital health projects

Cyber security in healthcare

With a growing reliance on technology, cyber-attacks against healthcare systems and hospitals have increased significantly, compromising the health information of millions. That’s why our team of experts is working closely with government, commercial companies and academics to influence practice on effective cyber security in healthcare.

In 2019 we published an in-depth impact analysis of the May 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS, highlighting how cyber-attacks must be considered a patient safety issue, and a White Paper, 'Improving Cyber Security in the NHS', which makes recommendations to address vulnerabilities.

In 2020, we developed the Essentials of Cybersecurity in Healthcare Organizations (ECHO) framework which outlines key areas for organisations to consider as they scale up and maintain robust cybersecurity. We also developed a Delphi study with international experts, which outlines how the framework could aid the delivery of safer care. 

Evaluating digital health technologies

Digital health technologies are transforming how we receive healthcare and how we interact with the healthcare system. However, meaningful improvements have often failed to materialise for patients and a common problem for innovators remains generating evidence quickly and affordably.

At IGHI, we work with digital health innovators to pragmatically generate the evidence required to support adoption of new technologies. We have the expertise to design and conduct clinical trials using both qualitative and quantitative methods, and we employ a range of innovative evidence generation approaches, for example clinical simulation, which we have recently used to evaluate a clinical decision support solution in oncology. We believe addressing this evidence gap will ultimately result in faster adoption of digital health technologies and improved outcomes for patients.

Exploring the uptake and impact of digital remote care

 We partnered with The Commonwealth Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to undertake a systematic review exploring the use of telemedicine since 2020 in OECD countries. The review focused on key areas including assessment of user satisfaction with services, the impact on patient safety, utilisation rates by demographic and socio-economic status, types of telemedicine utilised, and a cost analysis and pricing of services. Results of the review were published in "The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Future of Telemedicine" released in January 2023.

In collaboration with Imperial's Global Digital Health Unit and the African Forum for Primary Health Care (AfroPHC), we launched a report titled “Digital health in primary health care: Current use and future opportunities in the Sub-Saharan African region”, exploring where digital technologies are being widely used across Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver health services and address long-standing health system challenges. The report features key case examples from experts across the region to frame future opportunities, challenges and threats that must be addressed.

Supporting digital transformation of health systems

Through our collaborations with NHSX and NHS Trust partners, our researchers, designers and technologists are working to drive the digital transformation of care in the NHS. Our goals are to support the development of new technology solutions that are tailored to users’ needs, and to support leaders to digitally transform healthcare services so that our health system can provide better, more efficient and more sustainable care. 

Our work in this sphere is helping organisations to deeply understand their users’ needs and tailor digital products and services to these, while also bringing core team members together and helping them align around a common purpose. 

Click here to find out more about this work