Innovation is the driving force of our economy and often brings unexpected added value to our society. Innovations, such as new medicine and vaccines, also play a major role in the healthcare sector. Essentially, innovation has made our lives longer, healthier and more convenient. But not every innovation is desirable. Examples of such innovations – where several parties involved in the innovation process are unaware of the long-term negative consequences for society – are the use of pesticides in agriculture or the use of asbestos to insulate buildings. This raises the question of what kind of innovation also takes into account potential downsides of technology. The Responsible Innovation paradigm addresses this issue and aims to shape technology in a responsible and acceptable way. What does this mean for the world of digital health? First, it helps to design a system in which the various stakeholders in digital health innovation are mutually inclusive. Second, it supports responsible and value-conscious design of digital health applications that prevent, diagnose, and manage disease.
Since technology is created by people and is therefore always inherently linked to values, information and communication technologies play an important role in conveying values. During our daily work with various applications and devices, our behavior and thinking are influenced accordingly. These values can range from privacy, autonomy and security to sustainability, health and well-being. Focusing on building the value of privacy into the design of a digital health app at an early stage of development can be referred to as Privacy by Design. Basically, Privacy by Design is an example strategy for responsible innovation. If a health app is going to protect personal data in a patient-centric way, the value of privacy must be expressed in a way that optimizes patients* understanding and control over their data in the process. How can this be accomplished? Both the Dynamic Consent model and Decentralized Design are concrete approaches to making this happen.
To enable patients to fully participate in decisions about their data, the Dynamic Consent approach is a best practice. Specifically, this approach provides an ongoing and interactive process within a digital interface where patients are continuously informed about why and how their data is being used. This strengthens the understanding and personal responsibility of the patients.
Unlike the centralized design, which provides users with cloud-based data storage, the decentralized design is a blockchain-based model that is a potential win-win for digital health applications. On the one hand, it enables the implementation of new business models, and on the other, it offers a responsible and transparent way of storing and distributing personal data. In this way, privacy and security issues in digital health can be properly addressed.