From Digital Health to Digital Well-being: Systematic Scoping Review

Merlijn Smits*, Chan Mi Kim, Harry van Goor, Geke D.S. Ludden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
173 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Digital health refers to the proper use of technology for improving the health and well-being of people and enhancing the care of patients through the intelligent processing of clinical and genetic data. Despite increasing interest in well-being in both health care and technology, there is no clear understanding of what constitutes well-being, which leads to uncertainty in how to create well-being through digital health. In an effort to clarify this uncertainty, Brey developed a framework to define problems in technology for well-being using the following four categories: epistemological problem, scope problem, specification problem, and aggregation problem.

Objective: This systematic scoping review aims to gain insights into how to define and address well-being in digital health.

Methods: We followed the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) checklist. Papers were identified from 6 databases and included if they addressed the design or evaluation of digital health and reported the enhancement of patient well-being as their purpose. These papers were divided into design and evaluation papers. We studied how the 4 problems in technology for well-being are considered per paper.

Results: A total of 117 studies were eligible for analysis (n=46, 39.3% design papers and n=71, 60.7% evaluation papers). For the epistemological problem, the thematic analysis resulted in various definitions of well-being, which were grouped into the following seven values: healthy body, functional me, healthy mind, happy me, social me, self-managing me, and external conditions. Design papers mostly considered well-being as healthy body and self-managing me, whereas evaluation papers considered the values of healthy mind and happy me. Users were rarely involved in defining well-being. For the scope problem, patients with chronic care needs were commonly considered as the main users. Design papers also regularly involved other users, such as caregivers and relatives. These users were often not involved in evaluation papers. For the specification problem, most design and evaluation papers focused on the provision of care support through a digital platform. Design papers used numerous design methods, whereas evaluation papers mostly considered pre-post measurements and randomized controlled trials. For the aggregation problem, value conflicts were rarely described.

Conclusions: Current practice has found pragmatic ways of circumventing or dealing with the problems of digital health for well-being. Major differences exist between the design and evaluation of digital health, particularly regarding their conceptualization of well-being and the types of users studied. In addition, we found that current methodologies for designing and evaluating digital health can be improved. For optimal digital health for well-being, multidisciplinary collaborations that move beyond the common dichotomy of design and evaluation are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere33787
JournalJournal of medical internet research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2022


  • Well-being
  • Design
  • Evaluation
  • Technology assessment
  • Digital health
  • eHealth
  • mHealth
  • Telehealth
  • Mobile phone


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