MHealth for Alzheimer's Disease: Regulation, Consent, and Privacy Concerns
Beyond IP: The Future of Privacy (Fordham University Press, 2017), Forthcoming
Posted: 18 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 17, 2016
Mobile Health (mHealth), that is, the provision of health care or wellness services through smartphones or tablets, has the potential to improve the quality, access, and affordability of health care services, including mental health. In the last decades, multiple mHealth smartphone applications have been developed to treat and monitor the behavior of first stage Alzheimer’s disease patients. Common applications consist of informational reminders (for example, the names of loved ones or medication schedules) and tracking services designed to minimize the risk of patients’ wandering. These applications might delay patients’ disease progression, improve their quality of life, and empower them as well as their caregivers. However, mHealth apps for Alzheimer’s are both a source of opportunities and risks. This paper provides an overview of the promises made by this type of eHealth. Despite these promises, users and app developers currently have little clarity regarding the fragmented legislative and regulatory framework of mHealth. This paper analyzes the privacy and security challenges of mHealth and explains why these concerns are particularly exacerbated in the case of mHealth apps for Alzheimer’s patients. Contrary to other users of health and well being apps, these patients often cannot provide their informed consent, may lose their devices easily, and might not always be aware that their location is being tracked and their data collected. Since existing legislation and regulation on medical devices is to a great extent inapplicable to mHealth apps, many of these risks and concerns remain unanswered at the time of the writing.
Keywords: mHealth; e-health; privacy; consent; mental health; elder law; cybersecurity
JEL Classification: I1; I18; K2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation