Purpose This paper aims to systematically review the literature on roles of physicians in virtual teams (VTs) delivering healthcare for effective “physician e-leadership” (PeL) and implementation of e-health. Design/methodology/approach The analyzed studies were retrieved with explicit keywords and criteria, including snowball sampling. They were synthesized with existing theoretical models on VT research, healthcare team competencies and medical leadership. Findings Six domains for further PeL inquiry are delineated: resources, task processes, socio-emotional processes, leadership in VTs, virtual physician-patient relationship and change management. We show that, to date, PeL studies on socio-technical dynamics and their consequences on e-health are found underrepresented in the health literature; i.e. no single empirical, theoretic or conceptual study with a focus on PeL in virtual healthcare work was identified. Research limitations/implications E-health practices could benefit from organization-behavioral type of research for discerning effective physicians’ roles and inter-professional relations and their (so far) seemingly modest but potent impact on e-health developments. Practical implications Although best practices in e-health care have already been identified, this paper shows that physicians’ roles in e-health initiatives have not yet received any in-depth study. This raises questions such as are physicians not yet sufficiently involved in e-health? If so, what (dis)advantages may this have for current e-health investments and how can they best become involved in (leading) e-health applications’ design and implementation in the field? Originality/value If effective medical leadership is being deployed, e-health effectiveness may be enhanced; this new proposition needs urgent empirical scrutiny.