Research Topic

Responsible Digital Health

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About this Research Topic

Healthcare practitioners are expected to abide by biomedical ethics principles, including a commitment to beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice. As healthcare becomes increasingly digital, health technologies should be held to the same account. Digital health technologies encompass a wide ...

Healthcare practitioners are expected to abide by biomedical ethics principles, including a commitment to beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice. As healthcare becomes increasingly digital, health technologies should be held to the same account. Digital health technologies encompass a wide range of applications, from apps and wearables to data-driven tracking systems, automated caregivers, telemedicine, Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) and more. In addition, digital health serves vulnerable populations, so preventing these emerging technologies from inadvertently doing harm is both a critical research problem and a moral obligation facing designers and technologists. A growing concern over the ethical use of technology broadly has been amplified by a global pandemic which has triggered the rapid deployment of experimental health technologies. These events place even greater pressures on the need for attention to ethical impacts, value fulfillment, and on the need for advances in responsible digital health research and practice.


In order to conduct digital health work responsibly, we need evidence-based methods and processes for anticipating and addressing ethical impacts on individuals and society, for example, impacts on wellbeing, autonomy, privacy, and justice. This Research topic aims to highlight work that provides methods, processes, tools and examples of best practices that can inform responsible innovation and ethical practice in the design of digital health.

Over the past year, numerous professional organizations, including both the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), have released guidelines for professional conduct for the ethical design of digital systems. However, implementing high-level ethical principles in professional practice across different sectors remains challenging. It is likely that professionals in digital healthcare will need to develop their own evidence-based methods and processes with a sensitivity to the contextual nuances of their sector and the populations they serve. Such an endeavour is necessarily interdisciplinary, requiring the expertise of designers, engineers, health professionals, social scientists and philosophers. As such, we especially welcome interdisciplinary collaborations that can contribute to this important issue.


For the purpose of this Research Topic, we consider “Responsible Digital Health” to include any systematic effort designed to increase the likelihood of a technology being ethical, socially responsible and aligned with stakeholder values.

• Research on methods, tools or process for ethical practice in digital health
• Research on prevalent issues, such as ethical issues and challenges, in digital health
• Research on experimental solutions for addressing ethical issues within digital healthcare, for example, issues of privacy, inclusion, bias or injustice, respect for autonomy, protecting against psychological harms, stakeholder inclusion/participation, etc.
• Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary research, including (but not limited to) work from areas such as design, human-computer interaction, health and information science, biomedical technology, social sciences, psychology, and philosophy that can inform responsible digital health.

Please note, submission of an abstract prior to the full manuscript is highly encouraged, however it is not mandatory. Abstract submission primarily provides an opportunity for interested authors to receive feedback from the Topic Editors on the direction and scope of manuscripts which are still in development.

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Dr. Geke Ludden is currently working on a project funded by Philips VitalMinds. All other Topic Editors declare no conflicts of interest.


Keywords: human centered design, human-computer interaction, accessible design, ethical design, responsible innovation, responsible digital health


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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