Digital health monitors are booming, but where's the research on privacy and ethics?

Researchers have dedicated significant effort and funding to study how wearables measure body processes, but not enough research has been conducted on the ethical, security and privacy concerns posed by this technology, according to a study published Sept. 15 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers from the Digital Medicine Society used a range of search terms to find peer-reviewed articles on U.S.-led academic research on digital clinical measures between January 2019 and February 2021. 

After reviewing 295 articles, the researchers found the top five research subareas were: operations research, analytical validation, usability and utility, verification and clinical validation. Seventy-six percent of articles involved operations research, and 59 percent analytical validation.

The study found the three most underrepresented areas of research were ethics, security and ​​data rights and governance. The researchers found no articles involving ethics, one study involving security and ​​one study involving data rights and governance.

"​​Specific subareas of academic research related to digital clinical measures are not keeping pace with the rapid expansion and adoption of digital sensing products," the researchers wrote. "An integrated and coordinated effort is required across academia, academic partners, and academic funders to establish the field of digital clinical measures as an evidence-based field worthy of our trust."

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