The information, control, and value models of mobile health‐driven empowerment

Bioethics (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Mobile health tools are often said to empower users by providing them with the information they need to exercise control over their health. We aim to bring clarity to this claim, and in doing so explore the relationship between empowerment and autonomy. We have identified three distinct models embedded in the empowerment rhetoric: empowerment as information, empowerment as control, and empowerment as values. Each distinct model of empowerment gives rise to an associated problem. These problems, the Problem of Interpretation, the Value Alignment Problem, and the Priority Problem, show that mobile health tools in their current form are either insufficient for empowerment or are self‐defeating. These digital health technologies encourage users to adopt an individualized conception of autonomy, one that may weaken the doctor–patient relationship and undermine practices in shared decision making, and ultimately may not deliver on improving the health outcomes for those that need it the most.

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