Development and Presentation of an Ethical Framework for Health and Medical Apps
The ubiquity of mobile applications makes it difficult to weigh up opportunities and potential risks. One significant aspect of an ethical assessment regarding the development and use of health and medical apps is the lack of clear and consistent guidelines and measures of value. Aim: The aim of this paper was to identify the main ethical determinants associated in the context of health and medical apps and develop a framework for ethical reflection. Methods: A systematic literature search in the database PubMed was undertaken and the journal Biomed Central Medical Ethics was hand searched and 32 met the review criteria. On this basis of the review an interview guide was developed and five purposively selected experts on the field of payers, science, consumers, medical ethics and society were interviewed regarding health and medical apps. Results: There is a lack of consistent and clear guidelines regarding the use of health and medical apps in literature. Indeed, findings refer to established biomedical principles. The interviews identified that several insecurities related to legal and regulatory issues are common. On the other hand, many advantages of the use of health and medical apps have been pointed out by experts. Conclusion: Debates on ethics and the use of health and medical apps should play a significant role in public discussion. Ethical endpoints cannot be considered isolated from each other, and must be regarded as a complex network of aspects connected with each other. Further research should concentrate on the development of consistent guidelines and a framework for reflection of occurring ethical concerns.
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