The timeline of digital health

If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” Maya Angelou

This is precisely why we have created this article so that we can detail the timeline of the digital health milestones. All important events through its history, where we are now, and what the future might look like with the innovations on the radar.

The developments of technology, particularly in the IT sector, also created a consumerist movement in medicine in the late 20th century. As time went on and tech became easier to use, it began to be used directly by the average patient. We all know someone who has googled their symptoms, or maybe we have even done it ourselves. Studies suggest that the results of such symptom checkers are wrong more often than not. An advert for smartphones and the 4/4/5G revolution and beyond has helped these technological advancements.

Susannah Fox, a healthcare and IT researcher, was one of the first to notice this cultural change. It means that the doctor-patient relationship change is far more an engine of the movement rather than a certain microchip or technology.

What truly matters is how the doctor-patient relationship had evolved in over 2,000 years of health history. It matters that patients don’t want more gadgets, they only want more time and attention. It matters that doctors want to feel fulfilled in their jobs and do what they became doctors to do – care for patients. Slowly but surely, digital health is turning health into something very forward-thinking, and the age of health IT has far been outgrown.

We look at 6 of the most exhilarating milestones through this article.

1. E-patient white paper – 2007

Who did it? Physician Tom Ferguson

What did they do? He invented and launched the consumerist movement in medicine – single-handedly! The word “e-patient” was invented by him, and he wrote one of the first White Papers about the concept too.

What was the goal? His goal was to encourage patients to use the internet. He suggested that people should be connected, and informed, and take their health into their own hands. He also began the movement of having doctors work together with the patient, rather than instruct them.

What was the result? He created a blog and website in a bid to connect with like-minded people. His website was, but it is no more as Ferguson passed away in 2006. He left a lasting legacy amongst the many movements he founded. An example is the Society for Participatory Medicine.

2. #PatientsIncluded movement – 2010

Who did it? Lucien Engelen

What did they do? Engelen is a health keynote speaker who is regularly invited to medical conferences. He asked the audience during one of the conferences:  ‘How many patients are present here?’ – the answer was none. Engelen realized that something needed to be done, and so he created the #PatientsIncluded movement. It took him around the world and he provided conferences to individuals and patient representatives.

What was the goal? He wanted to create a ‘soft landing into the future.’ Healthcare was beginning to delocalize and he wanted to ensure that patient empowerment and technological advancements were something people were ready for, particularly telemedicine solutions.

What was the result? Engelen is keen to ensure that patients are the owners of their own health and is advocating this with his movement.

3. Patient Panel by BMJ – 2014

Who did it? This one makes the list because it was the most notable message on patient involvement from a top medical paper.

What did they do? One of the world’s oldest medical periodicals, is the British Medical Journal. This move in 2014 really was a clear message to the world of medicine.

What was the goal? The journal realized that better healthcare was needed in the form of affordable, quality, safe, and effective healthcare. To ensure better healthcare, they needed to partner with advocacy groups, patients, and the public – that was inevitable.

What was the result? The Patient Panel is requesting authors to involve patients in their articles for the journal. They are also requesting the following from authors: research papers to find out if and how patients were involved, ensure patient reviews of papers are embedded into their processes, and they have arranged a patient editor to ensure the patients’ perspective is brought to internal decision-making discussions.

4. Digital Health Unit launched by FDA – 2017

Who did it? The heavyweight champions began to get involved and all things regarding digital health got serious. When the top regulator gets involved, you know they mean business.

What did they do? The FDA gave the green light to various technologies, making them able to expand their opportunities for digital health tools.

What was the goal? FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained in a speech about the changes in pre-market thought, their support of new innovations, and their thoughts on AI.

What was the result? The FDA is regularly developing new frameworks and approving new systems as well as collecting post-market experience in a bid to keep up with new advancements and technologies. Great job!

5. AMA publishes its AI policy – 2018

Who did it? The American Medical Association has played a key role in the development of healthcare in the US since its inception in 1847.

What did they do? The AMA is acknowledging the importance of AI and providing recommendations on its use. The top medical organization is speaking with physicians, in order to increase care, enhance physician satisfaction, and enhance people’s health.

What was the goal? The AMA has many objectives. Among them is that of involving the department of healthcare AI in encouraging education for physicians and patients alike. They are highlighting the limitations of AI, but keeping in mind that the new emerging AI solutions and tools are safe and user-friendly for everyone.

What was the result? This AMA policy statement was the very first created. However, it wasn’t the last because AI is continuing to move into the future and create new ethical, privacy, and regulatory issues that will need addressing.

6. First AI-guided ultrasound device approved by FDA – 2020

Who did it? The FDA gave way to technology by approving the ultrasound device. It was a first of its kind, and the technology is only used in hospitals for now, but it can be used by untrained staff too.

What did they do? It was the first example of the regulator keeping pace with emerging technologies. The FDA approving this device means that the AI software is now assisting doctors and untrained healthcare staff in take excellent ultrasound images of the heart.

What was the goal? The goal was to bring the innovation to market. In addition, a new regulatory class was created. The new class means that similar types of devices created in the future can get to the market quicker as long as the new technology has the same intended use.

What was the result? AI is being used by many more companies to change up healthcare. It can often be difficult to stay abreast of the changes and new advancements and innovations. To help, the FDA held a 2-day workshop on AI and radiology.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.