Community health workers and data privacy

This is an interesting open access article that brings together two of my pet interests: community health workers and data privacy.

Mobile Health Systems for Community-Based Primary Care: Identifying Controls and Mitigating Privacy Threats

On one hand these type of mHealth platforms allow data collection that’s meaningful to people, as well as services and systems. In developing country contexts this has often never been collected before except through specific population health surveys.

On the other hand, lots of health systems and major philanthropic funders are talking about using this data for linkage and data mining. They’re also talking about developing algorithms to guide care and risk stratification. Again, this is mostly being done with a focus on care in developing countries, but also developed ones too.

I’m ambivalent about this. The potential to actually capture data and to harmonise/minimise variation in care could be quite profound and far-reaching.

I just don’t trust algorithms though, largely because they reproduce our biases. I’m worried that investment might be in device-driven care rather than developing local workforces.