REVIEW ARTICLE


Telemedicine, e-Health, and Digital Health Equity: A Scoping Review



Donatella Rita Petretto1, *, Gian Pietro Carrogu1, Luca Gaviano1, Roberta Berti1, Martina Pinna1, Andrea Domenico Petretto1, Roberto Pili2, 3
1 Department of Education, Philosophy and Psychology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari 09124, Italy
2 IERFOP Onlus, Via Platone 1/3, Cagliari 09100, Italy
3 Global Community on Longevity, Italy


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Creative Commons License
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Education, Philosophy and Psychology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari 09124, Italy; E-mail: drpetretto@unica.it


Abstract

Background

With the progressive digitization of people's lives and in the specific healthcare context, the issue of equity in the healthcare domain has extended to digital environments or e-environments, assuming the connotation of “Digital Health Equity” (DHE). Telemedicine and e-Health, which represent the two main e-environments in the healthcare context, have shown great potential in the promotion of health outcomes, but there can be unintended consequences related to the risk of inequalities. In this paper, we aimed to review papers that have investigated the topic of Digital Health Equity in Telemedicine and e-Health [definition(s), advantages, barriers and risk factors, interventions].

Methods

We conducted a scoping review according to the methodological framework proposed in PRISMA-ScR guidelines on the relationship between Digital Health Equity and Telemedicine and e-Health via Scopus and Pubmed electronic databases. The following inclusion criteria were established: papers on the relationship between Digital Health Equity and Telemedicine and/or e-Health, written in English, and having no time limits. All study designs were eligible, including those that have utilized qualitative and quantitative methods, methodology, or guidelines reports, except for meta-reviews.

Results

Regarding Digital Health Equity in Telemedicine and e-Health, even if there is no unique definition, there is a general agreement on the idea that it is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon. When promoting Digital Health Equity, some people may incur some risk/s of inequities and/or they may meet some obstacles. Regarding intervention, some authors have proposed a specific field/level of intervention, while other authors have discussed multidimensional interventions based on interdependence among the different levels and the mutually reinforcing effects between all of them.

Conclusion

In summary, the present paper has discussed Digital Health Equity in Telemedicine and e-Health. Promoting equity of access to healthcare is a significant challenge in contemporary times and in the near future. While on the one hand, the construct “equity” applied to the health context highlights the importance of creating and sustaining the conditions to allow anyone to be able to reach (and develop) their “health potential”, it also raises numerous questions on “how this can happen”. An overall and integrated picture of all the variables that promote DHE is needed, taking into account the interdependence among the different levels and the mutually reinforcing effects between all of them.

Keywords: Equity, Digital health equity, Telemedicine, e-health, Scoping review, Healthcare domain.