Innovation, trust and the regulation of mHealth Apps: a balancing exercise? 21 November, 2018

Maria Sheppard (Queen Mary, University of London)

The Medico-legal cluster will hold a seminar by Maria Sheppard in Law, L67 at 1.00pm on Wednesday, 21 November, 2018.


The use of mobile technologies such as smartphones and other wireless devices for health care purposes, and mHealth Apps, a subgroup of mHealth, are expected to result in more person-focused healthcare. Technologies such as mHealth Apps are predicted to make patients/consumers more self-motivated and to reduce the need for hospitalisation. Not only would mHealth app technology transform people’s lives but it would lead to a re-design of existing healthcare infrastructures with the potential of cost savings in making the healthcare system more efficient and sustainable. In effect, it has been suggested that this is due to its function as a disruptive innovation, supporting destabilisation of the existing healthcare organisation through a changed role for healthcare professionals with patients accessing care remotely or online. At the same time this account coincides with the narrative of NHS policy-makers, a narrative of personalised healthcare making patients/consumers more engaged in and responsible for their health with a potential for significant reduction in healthcare costs. It is proposed that while the concept of mHealth Apps as disruptive technology and the narrative of personalisation and responsiblisation might support a transformation of the healthcare system and a reduction of costs both are dependent on trust, namely people’s trust in the safety and security of the new technology. This trust may, however, be gained only at the expense of the forces for change if traditional regulatory mechanisms are applied reducing the effect of the technology’s disruptive potential. This is because such regulatory frameworks tend not to fit well but may slow down innovative development and lead to an increase rather than a decrease in healthcare cost. The question to be considered is whether the need for trust can be balanced with the desire for traditional regulation.

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