Digital Health Ethics

Digital Health Ethics

Ethics is defined as a moral philosophy or code of morals practiced by a person or group of people. An example of ethics is a the code of conduct set by a business or profession.

Here is a primer on digital medicine. Digital medicine describes a field, concerned with the use of technologies as tools for measurement, and intervention in the service of human health

Silicon Valley has changed from a source of hope to a source of immoral hype and unethical practices. BIG DIGITAL HEALTH, its offspring, runs the same risk. Ethical issues abound in digital health as they apply to:

  1. personal health data
  2. artificial intelligence
  3. facial recognition
  4. reconciling the ethics of business with the ethics of medicine
  5. manipulating patients and doctors for profit
  6. conflict of interest and busted trust
  7. personal health information ownership rights
  8. social media mining for health applications
  9. biometric technologies
  10. Alexa spying

The bottom line: Your data is a valuable asset and is for sale online.

Here are the reasons why it is so hard to do the right thing, particularly if you are a physician entrepreneur.

There are many reasons why people fear physician entrepreneurs:

1. Because they are afraid they will place the profit motive above patient interests.

2. Because they don't trust "business people" and, when it comes to medicine, "money is dirty" and the root of all evil.

3. Because they think entrepreneurship is about creating a business.

4. Because they think entrepreneurs are dishonest.

5 Because they think it corrupts the professionalism of medicine and encourages conflicts of interest.

6. Because they think it attracts the wrong kind of person into medicine.

7. Because they think it is a waste of a medical school education and has no place in the curriculum.

8. Because they are fed up with "high priced suits" who don't add value ripping off the system. 

9. Because they don't think doctors can do both and should stick to medicine.

10. Because they think doctors are innately lousy business people and should just pay attention to taking care of patients.

For physician entrepreneurs, the challenge is to reconcile the ethics of business with the ethics of medicine by practicing compassionate capitalism. Critics are justified in exposing those who violate that social contract that places the interests of patients first and profits second. Beyond that, marginalizing and stigmatizing physician entrepreneurs is unjustified and will interfere with us innovating our way out of the US sick care mess.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Twitter@ArlenMD and Co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship.

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  • Roddy Macleod

    Digital health is a booming sector

  • Daniel Thomson

    Security violations should be reported promptly along with what is being done to fix them.

  • Paul Reeves

    Digital health information should be accurate.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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