DEL 4.8 mHealth Ethics report – Ethical issues in mHealth Service Provision


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The provision of healthcare demands that ethical standards of good practice are observed and met, regardless of the physical proximity between the patient and the care provider. Ethical standards must be met when the patient and the care provider are physically in the same room; when they are virtually in the same room visible to each other through a teleconsultation video interface; or when they are linked by data and information feeds, for example through telemonitoring application. All forms of service covered by the label mHealth therefore demand adherence to principles of good ethical practice. In mHealth these may be wide ranging since the term mHealth covers not only teleconsultation and telemonitoring, but also situations in which the user is a citizen (not a patient) and the provider is not necessarily a health professional, or even a professional, as some mHealth tools and applications are developed for peer-to peer-support between patients or citizens.

The ethical standards in healthcare, also called medical ethics, cover a wide range of issues, ranging across care provision, resource allocation, patient engagement, health professional training and more. The concept of mHealth ethics therefore addressed a multitude of issues, covering the many different forms of mHealth and the different actors and interactions it includes. Some discussions on mHealth ethics are closely related to classical medical ethics, and some more routed in the unique aspects of mHealth or particular mHealth tools and apps. The literature on mHealth ethics is wide and developed in many academic disciplines such as philosophy, medicine, law, sociology, as well as computer science, engineering, design, business and many others. Contributions to the discussion come from both theoretical and practical perspectives and cover many issues.

It is because the literature on mHealth is so wide that it was decided a useful resource for the European mHealth Hub would be both a living annotated bibliography, which can be continuously updated throughout the lifetime of the project (https://mhealth-hub.org/ethics-bibliography), as well as a ‘quick guide’ to serve a sort of compass to help the project partners and Hub users navigate the literature.

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