Ethical issues when using digital biomarkers and automated systems for early detection of dementia

Ford, Elizabeth, Milne, Richard and Curlewis, Keegan (2023) Ethical issues when using digital biomarkers and automated systems for early detection of dementia. WIREs Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery. e1492 1-26. ISSN 1942-4795

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Dementia poses a growing challenge for health services but remains stigmatised and under-recognised. Digital technologies to aid the earlier detection of dementia are approaching market. These include traditional cognitive screening tools presented on mobile devices, smartphone native applications, passive data collection from wearable, in-home and in-car sensors, as well as machine learning techniques applied to clinic and imaging data. It has been suggested that earlier detection and diagnosis may help patients plan for their future, achieve a better quality of life, and access clinical trials and possible future disease modifying treatments.

In this review we explore whether digital tools for the early detection of dementia can or should be deployed, by assessing them against the principles of ethical screening programmes. We conclude that while the importance of dementia as a health problem is unquestionable, significant challenges remain. There is no available treatment which improves the prognosis of diagnosed disease. Progression from early-stage disease to dementia is neither given nor currently predictable. Available technologies are generally not both minimally invasive and highly accurate. Digital deployment risks exacerbating health inequalities due to biased training data and inequity in digital access. Finally, the acceptability of early dementia detection is not established, and resources would be needed to ensure follow-up and support for those flagged by any new system.

We conclude that early dementia detection deployed at scale via digital technologies does not meet standards for a screening programme and we offer recommendations for moving towards an ethical mode of implementation.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: dementia, ethics, artificial intelligence
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Primary Care and Public Health
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2023 09:40
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2023 15:15

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