Nicole Martinez-Martin received her JD from Harvard Law School and her doctorate in social sciences (comparative development/medical anthropology) from the University of Chicago. Her recent work in bioethics and neuroethics has focused on the ethics of AI and digital health technology, such as digital phenotyping or computer vision, for medical and behavioral applications.
Q1 How can digital technology be used in mental health? What are the advantages of digital technology in that area?
There has been a lot of interest for digital technology to improve diagnosis, allow more people to connect to mental health care, and lower costs. Digital technology, including AI applications, has strengths in terms of pattern recognition and so there is enthusiasm for using digital technology to collect research data and then apply AI improve diagnosis. The interest in this is understandable because of longstanding questions about the validity of psychiatric diagnostic categories and the lack of biomarkers for psychiatric disorders. On top of this, the fact that so many people have smartphones and internet, and digital technology that allows people to be reachable in their daily lives, without having to come to a lab or doctor’s office, raises hopes that this can improve access and care.
Q2 Does digital technology present unique ethical challenges in the healthcare context? why?
Many of these same qualities that could be used to improve care and access are part of why digital technology can present unique ethical challenges in the healthcare context. Gathering data from people as they go about their daily lives raises privacy and surveillance concerns, especially since existing privacy law is still inadequate to protect people from the implications of secondary uses of their data. And while digital technology could improve healthcare access for some people, there are still many people who could be left out, raising equity concerns. There is also a lot of work to be done to evaluate the quality of care that people can receive through digital health.