Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

E-health: potential benefits and challenges in providing and accessing sexual health services

Victor Minichiello1*, Saifur Rahman2, Tinashe Dune2, John Scott3 and Gary Dowsett4

Author Affiliations

1 The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, School of Public Health & Human Biosciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

2 Collaborative Research Network for Mental Health and Well-being, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

3 School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

4 Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:790  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-790

Published: 30 August 2013

Abstract

Background

E-health has become a burgeoning field in which health professionals and health consumers create and seek information. E-health refers to internet-based health care and information delivery and seeks to improve health service locally, regionally and worldwide. E-sexual health presents new opportunities to provide online sexual health services irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation and location.

Discussion

The paper used the dimensions of the RE-AIM model (reach, efficacy, adoption, implementation and maintenance) as a guiding principle to discuss potentials of E-health in providing and accessing sexual health services. There are important issues in relation to utilising and providing online sexual health services. For healthcare providers, e-health can act as an opportunity to enhance their clients’ sexual health care by facilitating communication with full privacy and confidentiality, reducing administrative costs and improving efficiency and flexibility as well as market sexual health services and products. Sexual health is one of the common health topics which both younger and older people explore on the internet and they increasingly prefer sexual health education to be interactive, non-discriminate and anonymous. This commentary presents and discusses the benefits of e-sexual health and provides recommendations towards addressing some of the emerging challenges.

Future directions

The provision of sexual health services can be enhanced through E-health technology. Doing this can empower consumers to engage with information technology to enhance their sexual health knowledge and quality of life and address some of the stigma associated with diversity in sexualities and sexual health experiences. In addition, e-sexual health may better support and enhance the relationship between consumers and their health care providers across different locations. However, a systematic and focused approach to research and the application of findings in policy and practice is required to ensure that E-health benefits all population groups and the information is current and clinically valid and effective, including preventative approaches for various client groups with diverse needs.

Keywords:
E-health; Sexual health; Internet; Health service; Access to services