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BMC Med. 2019 Jul 17;17(1):137. doi: 10.1186/s12916-019-1377-7.

Building the case for actionable ethics in digital health research supported by artificial intelligence.

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Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093, USA.
Research Center for Optimal Digital Ethics in Health, Qualcomm Institute and School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093, USA.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA, 02215, USA.
School of Nursing, Indiana University, 600 Barnhill Drive, Indianapolis, IN, 46202, USA.


The digital revolution is disrupting the ways in which health research is conducted, and subsequently, changing healthcare. Direct-to-consumer wellness products and mobile apps, pervasive sensor technologies and access to social network data offer exciting opportunities for researchers to passively observe and/or track patients 'in the wild' and 24/7. The volume of granular personal health data gathered using these technologies is unprecedented, and is increasingly leveraged to inform personalized health promotion and disease treatment interventions. The use of artificial intelligence in the health sector is also increasing. Although rich with potential, the digital health ecosystem presents new ethical challenges for those making decisions about the selection, testing, implementation and evaluation of technologies for use in healthcare. As the 'Wild West' of digital health research unfolds, it is important to recognize who is involved, and identify how each party can and should take responsibility to advance the ethical practices of this work. While not a comprehensive review, we describe the landscape, identify gaps to be addressed, and offer recommendations as to how stakeholders can and should take responsibility to advance socially responsible digital health research.


Artificial intelligence; Bioethics; Digital health; Digital medicine; Precision medicine; Research ethics

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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