Mobile phones in research and treatment: Ethical guidelines and future directions
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Mobile phones and other remote monitoring devices, collectively referred to as "mHealth," promise to transform the treatment of a range of conditions, including movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. In this viewpoint paper, we use Parkinson’s disease as an example, although most considerations discussed below are valid for a wide variety of conditions. The ability to easily collect vast arrays of personal data over long periods will give clinicians and researchers unique insights into disease treatment and progression. These capabilities also pose new ethical challenges that health care professionals will need to manage if this promise is to be realized with minimal risk of harm. These challenges include privacy protection when anonymity is not always possible, minimization of third-party uses of mHealth data, informing patients of complex risks when obtaining consent, managing data in ways that maximize benefit while minimizing the potential for disclosure to third parties, careful communication of clinically relevant information gleaned via mHealth technologies, and rigorous evaluation and regulation of mHealth products before widespread use. Given the complex array of symptoms and differences in comfort and literacy with technology, it is likely that these solutions will need to be individualized. It is therefore critical that developers of mHealth apps engage with patients throughout the development process to ensure that the technology meets their needs. These challenges will be best met through early and ongoing engagement with patients and other relevant stakeholders.
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