Privacy Challenges in the Health Sector through Emerging Technologies
Ethical and legal issues in mhealth apps: A Canadian perspective
Wearable and mobile devices that record and organize personal health information are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Many of us own devices capable of tracking our activities, counting our steps, estimating our caloric intake, measuring the quality of our sleep, and even recording our heart rate. And while this kind of information promises to empower consumers, enabling them to better understand their health and fitness, such technologies also raise certain legal and ethical questions about data management, privacy, and how we make decisions about our health.
Such data, while seemingly innocuous, is often capable of revealing a great deal about a person's underlying health, their daily habits, and even, sometimes, their identity. On the one hand, this raises considerations about privacy and the extent to which the companies that gather personal health information are capable of safeguarding it. On the other hand, the possibility that this kind of information will be used to inform decisions about a person's health raises questions about the role of technology in the delivery of healthcare in the modern world and whether consumers can rely on wearable and mobile devices to provide useful insight into fitness and affliction. Several of these questions are also asked in the research setting, where mobile health applications are used to recruit participants for clinical studies. In all cases, the prevalence and power of wearables and other mobile devices indicates that accounting for these potential legal and ethical concerns is necessary. In this presentation, I will outline some of the legal concerns raised by mhealth apps using the Canadian legal landscape and describe whether it may be harnessed in ways that empower patients and society as a whole.
Ma’n H. Zawati (LL.B., LL.M., Ph.D. (DCL)) is an Assistant Professor at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and the Executive Director of the Centre of Genomics and Policy in the Department of Human Genetics. He is also an Associate Member of McGill’s Biomedical Ethics Unit. His research concentrates on the legal, ethical and policy dimensions of health research and clinical care, with a special focus on biobanking, data sharing, professional liability, and the use of novel technologies (e.g. mhealth apps, WGS, WES) in both the clinical and research settings.