Digital Biomarkers (2020-12-01)

Survey on Acceptance of Passive Technology Monitoring for Early Detection of Cognitive Impairment

  • Sylvia Josephy-Hernandez,
  • Catherine Norise,
  • Jee-young Han,
  • Kara M. Smith

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 1
pp. 9 – 15


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Introduction: Digital biomarkers may act as a tool for early detection of changes in cognition. It is important to understand public perception of technologies focused on monitoring cognition to better guide the design of these tools and inform patients appropriately about the associated risks and benefits. Health care systems may also play a role in the clinical, legal, and financial implications of such technologies. Objective: To evaluate public opinion on the use of passive technology for monitoring cognition. Methods: This was a one-time, Internet-based survey conducted in English and Spanish. Results: Within the English survey distributed in the USA (n = 173), 58.1% of respondents would be highly likely to agree to passive monitoring of cognition via a smartphone application. Thirty-eight percent of those with a higher degree of experience with technology were likely to agree to monitoring versus 20% of those with less experience with technology (p = 0.003). Sixty-two percent of non-health-care professionals were likely to agree to monitoring versus 45% of health-care workers (p = 0.012). There were significant concerns regarding privacy (p < 0.01). We compared the surveys answered in Spanish in Costa Rica via logistic regression (n = 43, total n = 216), adjusting for age, education level, health-care profession, owning a smartphone, experience with technology, and perception of cognitive decline. Costa Rican/Spanish-speaking respondents were 7 times more likely to select a high probability of agreeing to such a technology (p < 0.01). English-speaking respondents from the USA were 5 times more likely to be concerned about the impact on health insurance (p = 0.001) and life insurance (p = 0.01). Conclusions: Understanding public perception and ethical implications should guide the design of digital biomarkers for cognition. Privacy and the health-care system in which the participants take part are 2 major factors to be considered. It is the responsibility of researchers to convey the ethical and legal implications of cognition monitoring.