Digital health: A greater focus on human factors is needed

There is growing appreciation that the success of digital health – whether digital tools, digital interventions or technology-based change strategies – is linked to the extent to which human factors are considered throughout the design, development and implementation. A shift in focus to individuals as users and consumers of digital health highlights the capacity of the field to respond to recent developments, such as the adoption of person-centred care and consumer health technologies.

In an article published in the journal BMC Medicine, we argue that this project is not only incomplete, but is fundamentally ‘uncompletable’ in the face of a highly dynamic landscape of both technological and human challenges. These challenges include the effects of consumerist, technology-supported care on care delivery, the rapid growth of digital users in low-income and middle-income countries and the impacts of machine learning.

Digital health research will create most value by retaining a clear focus on the role of human factors in maximising health benefit, by helping health systems to anticipate and understand the person-centred effects of technology changes and by advocating strongly for the autonomy, rights and safety of consumers.

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