Authentication of patients in medicine via online systems should be discussed ethically

June 26, 2018

With the increase in data volume and dissemination of ICT, online systems are being applied to medical research/treatment with high expectations, not only in the exchange of research data, but also various modes of communication, including the informed consent process. It is anticipated that individuals will proactively participate in research by their own volition, forming partnerships between researchers and participants.

At the same time, in order for individuals to participate in medical research/treatment without anxiety, the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) associated with the implementation of electronic methods for medical research/treatment should be addressed in earnest. However, research on authentication systems have mostly been performed from a technical perspective, so ethical issues, such as proof of user intent, have not yet been fully discussed.

In this study, the researchers pointed out that authentication systems for medical research/treatment need not only to prevent impersonation, but also to prove intent of research participants and patients.

The researchers discussed authentication by separating “authentication at the time of registration” and “authentication at the time of login.” Focusing on the latter, the researchers clarified roles and set out methods of authentication. They discussed problems in current authentication systems from the ethical viewpoints of (1) respect for autonomy, (2) privacy protection, and (3) establishing a relationship of trust. Their research results were published in Frontiers in Genetics.

This group’s achievements will contribute to building systems for medical research/ treatment in which individuals can participate free of anxiety. The research results will become a basis for discussion for ELSI not only about medical research/treatment using ICT, but also about ICT itself in various fields.

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