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Consumer Health Informatics: Past, Present, and Future of a Rapidly Evolving Domain

G Demiris
Yearbook of Medical Informatics 2016 May 20, Suppl 1: S42-7
27199196

OBJECTIVES: Consumer Health Informatics (CHI) is a rapidly growing domain within the field of biomedical and health informatics. The objective of this paper is to reflect on the past twenty five years and showcase informatics concepts and applications that led to new models of care and patient empowerment, and to predict future trends and challenges for the next 25 years.

METHODS: We discuss concepts and systems based on a review and analysis of published literature in the consumer health informatics domain in the last 25 years.

RESULTS: The field was introduced with the vision that one day patients will be in charge of their own health care using informatics tools and systems. Scientific literature in the field originally focused on ways to assess the quality and validity of available printed health information, only to grow significantly to cover diverse areas such as online communities, social media, and shared decision-making. Concepts such as home telehealth, mHealth, and the quantified-self movement, tools to address transparency of health care organizations, and personal health records and portals provided significant milestones in the field.

CONCLUSION: Consumers are able to actively participate in the decision-making process and to engage in health care processes and decisions. However, challenges such as health literacy and the digital divide have hindered us from maximizing the potential of CHI tools with a significant portion of underserved populations unable to access and utilize them. At the same time, at a global scale consumer tools can increase access to care for underserved populations in developing countries. The field continues to grow and emerging movements such as precision medicine and the sharing economy will introduce new opportunities and challenges.

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