Do traditional bioethical solutions suffice in times of digital health?

Karin Jongsma is an assistant professor of medical ethics at the Julius Center of Utrecht University Medical Center, the Netherlands and a Post-doctoral fellow at the department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine in Göttingen, Germany.  She was also our Caroline Miles visiting scholar in November 2017.

She works with Prof. Dr. Annelien Bredenoord (Utrecht) and Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz (Göttingen). Her research focuses on who should have a say in decision-making and representative practices, and she is particularly interested in digital health.

Apps and big data are increasingly used to track, analyse and predict health and health behaviour via smartphones, wearables and via online behaviour. Health care has a history of failed IT investments, and health research has a reputation of being expensive to innovate in, but commercial tech-companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple have succeeded in creating momentum towards a digital change. These companies have developed and implemented technologies that offer innovative ways for collecting, storing and analysing complex and rich health-related data. This data driven research and care may be referred to as digital health. The rising attention for big data and digital health has come with high expectations and is supposedly paradigm-changing. It is hoped that the possibilities of doing research and monitoring patients and not yet patients will create new ways of predicting, treating and preventing illnesses (eg Topol 2015), but digital health will simultaneously create new risks and harm and will shift the dynamics of health research and health care.

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Do traditional bioethical solutions suffice in times of digital health?