Leibniz ScienceCampus Digital Public Health Colloquium Series:
Meeting-ID: 940 2702 3247
Title: The Patient-Manager: Empowerment or Technological Paternalism?
Dr. Katleen Gabriels
Assistant Professor in philosophy and ethics of computer technology
Department of Philosophy, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
What will a ‘good’ patient look like in the near future? Someone who closely monitors his or her health and chronic diseases through the use of wearables and apps, and adjusts behavior and treatment accordingly? This talk takes a critical look at the notion of ‘patient-manager’. The starting point is a qualitative study for which we conducted expert interviews with doctors (Gabriels & Moerenhout, 2018). The aim of this study was, first, to offer an analysis of how medical doctors evaluate self-tracking (classic and digital) methods in their practice and, second, to explore the anticipated shifts that digital self-care will bring about in relation to our findings and those of other studies. Interestingly, the patient as health manager was an important theme that arose from our body of data. The interviewees describe both opportunities and concerns in a nuanced way.
Drawing on these findings, the concept of ‘patient-manager’ will be explored more in-depth. During the past decade, technology developers, policy makers, researchers, and doctors have increasingly approached the patient in terms of a manager of his or her health. This conceptual shift is linked to the rise of smart technology, in particular digital self-tracking. For instance, when CEO Tim Cook was asked about Apple’s greatest contribution he replied: “We are taking what has been with the institution and empowering the individual to manage their health. [...] But I do think, looking back, in the future, you will answer that question: Apple’s most important contribution to mankind has been in health”.
Databased artificial intelligence (AI) offers a plethora of opportunities to monitor patients at home, such as intelligent video monitoring that can also include wearable cameras. At the same time, patients, whose home is equipped with sensors and/or cameras, can also carry digital self-tracking technologies on the body (cf. Internet of Things). All these data can be exchanged in order to analyze patterns. What is the ultimate goal of the empowered patient as a ‘health manager’? To what extent leads the shift towards a patient-manager to a new relation of dependency that is currently neglected, namely the dependency on smart technology or ‘technological dependency’ (see Hofmann, 2003)?
This talk is based on research that Dr. Gabriels conducted together with Dr. Tania Moerenhout, University of Otago, New Zealand.
The talk (approx. 45 minutes) will be followed by a discussion.