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In Frontiers in medicine

Digital technologies and data science have laid down the promise to revolutionize healthcare by transforming the way health and disease are analyzed and managed in the future. Digital health applications in healthcare include telemedicine, electronic health records, wearable, implantable, injectable and ingestible digital medical devices, health mobile apps as well as the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to medical and public health prognosis and decision-making. As is often the case with technological advancement, progress in digital health raises compelling ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI). This article aims to succinctly map relevant ELSI of the digital health field. The issues of patient autonomy; assessment, value attribution, and validation of health innovation; equity and trustworthiness in healthcare; professional roles and skills and data protection and security are highlighted against the backdrop of the risks of dehumanization of care, the limitations of machine learning-based decision-making and, ultimately, the future contours of human interaction in medicine and public health. The running theme to this article is the underlying tension between the promises of digital health and its many challenges, which is heightened by the contrasting pace of scientific progress and the timed responses provided by law and ethics. Digital applications can prove to be valuable allies for human skills in medicine and public health. Similarly, ethics and the law can be interpreted and perceived as more than obstacles, but also promoters of fairness, inclusiveness, creativity and innovation in health.

Cordeiro João V


artificial intelligence, big data, digital health, ethics, law, patient–doctor relationship, telemedicine