telemedicine

The Futures of Telemedicine: Knowledge, Policy, Regulation

Digital health card, electronic health record, medical telematics infrastructure – these are the terms dominating the public and political debates on the digitalization of the health care system in Germany. At EU level, electronic health services (eHealth) are also seen as a great opportunity. As part of its digital health and care strategy, the European Commission expects to improve public health by facilitating greater cross-border healthcare access, enabling citizens to access their health data and researchers to share patient data and medical expertise across the EU. Digital tools are expected to provide efficient, user-friendly and widely accepted electronic health services.

At the same time, eHealth applications and services have become an important market within the digital economy, with an estimated global turnover of around 18 billion euros. Well-known applications range from medical patient counselling and consultations or self-monitoring devices to virtual expert networks. Technological paradigms such as the “Internet of Things”, “Artificial Intelligence” or “Smart Devices” are increasingly integrated into research and development goals of eHealth applications, also promoting medical (self-)surveillance and control.

The diagnostic or therapeutic use of digital technologies has a strong effect on doctor-patient relationships and therefore affects the level of acceptance of these new technological solutions. In addition, eHealth applications and practices produce, store and evaluate highly sensitive data on individuals, resulting in a particular need for legal and regulatory frameworks.

In this context, the project “The Futures of Telemedicine: Knowledge, Policy, Regulation” focuses on two closely interwoven research perspectives:

1. Social norms, standards and acceptance

The project looks at how and to what extent political institutions or companies define the development targets in the field of telemedicine and eHealth. It focuses on country-specific cultural and social differences in order to gain insight into which practices of medical surveillance are considered either acceptable or a violation of personal privacy. With eHealth applications, a comprehensive knowledge of individuals is produced that extends beyond medical contexts and allows for far-reaching conclusions about behavioural patterns, personality traits or psychological dispositions. Therefore, it is necessary to critically assess the data that is collected and to what extent individuals are subjected to evaluative and normative processes.

2. Challenges for regulation and legislation

Globally operating digital networks pose particular challenges for the regulation of eHealth services and practices. The project examines existing problems in the fields of patient data protection, cybersecurity or liability in national and transnational contexts. In concrete terms, for example, the regulation of data protection or liability often remains vague with “therapeutic service providers” operating from abroad. At the same time, another research objective is to analyse how the culturally specific levels of social acceptance can be taken into account in legislation and regulation. This includes knowledge about individuals that extends beyond medical contexts and is in need of special protection.

The project is funded by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation through a research fund provided by Cisco Systems.

Duration 07/2018 – 06/2019
Supporters Silicon Valley Community Foundation/Cisco Systems

Kontakt

Thomas Christian Bächle, Dr.

Co-Head of research programme: The evolving digital society

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Research Team
Publications
Conference contribution and other activities
Research Team

Publications

Conference contribution and other activities