Ethical perspectives on recommending digital technology for patients with mental illness.
Bauer M., Glenn T., Monteith S., Bauer R., Whybrow PC., Geddes J.
The digital revolution in medicine not only offers exciting new directions for the treatment of mental illness, but also presents challenges to patient privacy and security. Changes in medicine are part of the complex digital economy based on creating value from analysis of behavioral data acquired by the tracking of daily digital activities. Without an understanding of the digital economy, recommending the use of technology to patients with mental illness can inadvertently lead to harm. Behavioral data are sold in the secondary data market, combined with other data from many sources, and used in algorithms that automatically classify people. These classifications are used in commerce and government, may be discriminatory, and result in non-medical harm to patients with mental illness. There is also potential for medical harm related to poor quality online information, self-diagnosis and self-treatment, passive monitoring, and the use of unvalidated smartphone apps. The goal of this paper is to increase awareness and foster discussion of the new ethical issues. To maximize the potential of technology to help patients with mental illness, physicians need education about the digital economy, and patients need help understanding the appropriate use and limitations of online websites and smartphone apps.