Call for Papers: The New Digital Normal in Health and Medicine

The New Digital Normal in Health and Medicine #newdigitalnormal 

A new standing JMIR theme issue: The Pandemic and Lockdowns has led to paradigm changes in health care - are the changes here to stay? 

JMIR Publications is issuing a call for papers to address key issues in the evolution of a new digital normal in health and medicine. In this open call for theme issue papers, JMIR Publications encourages authors to submit their work to our family of journals investigating evidence for paradigm changes in digital health care and public health induced by the pandemic and pandemic-related responses, such as lockdowns.

Digital health was formerly known by other names: “cybermedicine” in the late 1990s and “electronic health” or “eHealth” in the early 2000s, and new monikers have continued to be created in the years since. In parallel to the slow evolution of digital health, criticisms of the slow adoption of the “digital” aspect of health and medical education persisted—until 2020. 

Then, the global COVID pandemic that began in 2020 extraordinarily disrupted established routines, services, supply chains, and life in general, across all sectors, including health, and it accelerated the digital transformation in all areas of life, including medicine and health care. The development and adoption of all forms of digital health care services, including but not limited to telemedicine, home monitoring, and remote medical education, skyrocketed practically overnight—not out of choice, but out of necessity. In addition, the pandemic and lockdowns fueled an unprecedented level of innovation and rethinking of antiquated processes across numerous sectors. 

Digitization of services across sectors can influence the health and well-being of societies in previously unforeseen ways, and scholars will investigate the catalytic role of the pandemic for decades to come. The New Digital Normal in Health special theme issue across JMIR Publications’ journals will provide a home for studies that shed light on this line of research, and the accompanying social media campaign with the hashtag #newdigitalnormal will highlight news and research related to that topic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the internet and services reliant on internet access became lifelines to connect people together, in an attempt to sustain personal and family relationships, work functions in virtual workplaces, and access to essential services (eg, health care, education, and government or legal services). Working, studying, and socializing from home or from a distance became the new normal, and this will continue to be the case in many areas. With rapid innovation and digitization, particularly in health care, comes the potential for rapidly widening health and social disparities, as the digital divide between those who can and cannot access remote essential services grows and endangers the ideals of global health and social systems. New ethical, legal, and social issues not previously considered have also arisen. Furthermore, evaluation of innovations remains necessary to ensure safe care delivery that can rapidly recognize and mitigate or adapt to avoid unintended negative consequences. Digital health care should continue to strive to be not only patient-centered, timely, and efficient, but also safe, effective, and equitable, as advocated by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Future scholarly work may divide the paradigm changes in digital health care into pre- and post-COVID eras, and the generation that grows up in the post-COVID world (Generation Alpha) will have a different experience in all areas of life, much as there is a generation that grew up before the internet that had a different experience than the generation that came after (ie, pre– and post–World Wide Web). The development, socialization, and overall health and well-being of children, adolescents, and young adults during world-changing pandemic times may be forever altered as a result of the societal and systemic changes forced by COVID-19 and global responses.

But how sustainable are these innovations and shifts in services and workflows? What will be deemed successful? What are the unanticipated yet potentially beneficial (or harmful) consequences? How will societies and systems respond to new challenges in an ethical and equitable manner? How the pandemic has changed paradigms in health care, education, and business will be the subject of scholarly investigation for years, or even decades, to come.

JMIR Publications is issuing a standing call for papers to address these issues. We are interested in original research, systematic reviews, research letters, viewpoints, and other JMIR article types that explore these issues. 

Submissions may include but are not limited to the following topics: 

  • Before-after comparisons of telemedicine usage and adoption of other digital health services 

  • Impact of changes in digital health care delivery on health outcomes

  • Evaluation of digital technologies, including but not limited to utilization and adoption rates

  • Assessments of sustainability of digital technologies, with consideration of those that have permanently changed health care delivery

  • Cost-benefit analyses of the new digital normal 

  • Examination of challenges and unintended consequences of tech-driven health care delivery

  • Assessments of remote education and training of virtual clinicians and health professionals and their long-term impacts 

  • Development of initiatives and programs that enrich a diverse and inclusive pipeline of digital health and informatics professionals to address new pandemic-induced public health, medical, and scientific issues

  • Determination of the dynamics and impact of the tsunami of misinformation (infodemic) on societies, medicine, and science

  • Investigations of health disparities and inequities in digital services and technologies

  • Novel digital services and technologies for under-resourced or historically marginalized communities

  • Consequences of missed prevention and treatment encounters during the pandemic and how sustainable digital technologies are delivered to address disruptions in services 

  • New scientific methodologies, research conduct, and research ethics resulting from pandemic regulations and lockdowns

Submissions not reviewed or accepted for publication in this JMIR theme issue may be offered cascading peer review or transfer to other JMIR journals, according to standard JMIR Publications policies. 

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