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My Digital Hippocratic Oath

We've all heard of the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors (formally or less so!), but how does this apply to the modern day? And more specifically, where data, digital and technology come into play. Tamsin Holland Brown, community paediatrician and clinical entrepreneur shares with us her Digital Hippocratic Oath:

I swear to fulfil, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those who have developed medical digital technology, and gladly share such knowledge regarding accountability and transparency of algorithms or machine learning processes embedded in the product or wearable (and ask the right questions of those who won’t share because they want to protect Intellectual Property).

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all data measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of bad data and data bias particularly where a product has not been tested with a diverse set of users.

I will remember that notifications are sometimes not important enough to interrupt the user and may harass the patient or create anxiety.

I will not be ashamed to say ‘I do not know how the company is using your data for this free service’, nor will I fail to consider what the risks are of using the technology when no regulations are available.

I will respect the data of my patients,  for their problems are not recorded by wearables so that the world may know or benefit from their data. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of consenting and protecting user data. If it is given to me to collect data and publish papers, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to breech data and expose patients with far reaching and devastating long term consequences.

This awesome responsibility must be faced with a great ethical culture and awareness of my personal responsibility when entering into digital consultations and remote digital health monitoring.

Above all I must not play at being ‘Cambridge Analytica’ or Facebook . I will remember that I do not treat a wearable, or a computer or an app, but a sick human being, whose data can be breeched or used unethically for profit.

My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. I will prevent fake algorithms, conversation bots and data being sold to third parties where I am able to identify the person responsible despite anonymity, lack of regulations and no one being held to account.

I will prevent tech addiction by suggesting time limits whenever I can, for prevention of addiction and mental health problems is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those with a sound tech and digital understanding  as well as the tech-illiterate and those without access to the internet.

If I do not violate data collection, data consent, and medical tech applications,  may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.

May I always act so as to preserve the most responsible digital health interactions of my era despite a lack of policies or regulations to adhere to, and may I long experience the joy of healing those by e-consultations and personalised healthcare who seek my help.


Dr Tamsin Holland Brown

Community Paediatrician CCS NHS Trust

Honorary Contract with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Research affiliate with university of Cambridge

Founder of HearGlueEar

NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur


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