Semantics: The "eCare" terminology debate

By Brian Dolan

Following the publication of the FCC National Broadband Plan a new term entered the mobile health and connected health industries' lexicon: "eCare." The FCC adopted this term to serve as an umbrella concept for "the electronic exchange of information -- data, images and video -- to aid in the practice of medicine and advanced analytics. Encompasses technologies that enable video consultation, remote monitoring and image transmission ('store-and-forward') over fixed or mobile networks."

Here's how the FCC defined eCare and related terms:

eCareOf course, the FCC's use of "eCare" was not an isolated incident. Last week, the Senate held a hearing on aging independently services and technologies and described these devices and services as "eCare" technologies:

“I am of the view that eCare could be a huge step forward in improving the care for older people and lowering costs to Medicare as a government program,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) said. “At the same time… I want to make clear that I am not of the view that everyone ought to be able to run up with a gadget and say, OK, let’s now make this eligible for Medicare reimbursement."

The introduction of the new term, eCare, has brought some heated debate to social networking sites. Is "eCare" necessary? Maybe for the government. Is it confusing? Sure. What's the point?

While having to juggle a new term isn't ideal, its advent is understandable. What were the other options?

eHealth might be a good fit for an umbrella term, but CMS already has an Office of E-Health Standards and Services, which enforces HIPAA among other things. The Senate committee and FCC likely didn't want to use a term that already had an established office within the federal government.

mHealth or mobile health is certainly a subset of what's become the "eCare" conversation -- albeit a very important one from our perspective, of course.

Tele- terms like telehealth and telemedicine already have established meanings and reimbursement protocols that are very specific and certainly preclude some devices and services. Some of the "store-it-forward" services come to mind.

Connected health is a viable alternative to eCare, but in either case the terms are easily understandable. What's your terminology preference?