Primary Care Physicians’ and Patients’ Perspectives on Equity and Health Security of Infectious Disease Digital Surveillance

Chi Wai William Wong, Yan Zhao, Ye Xuan Ma, Wei Nan Dong, Jia Liu, Qin Pang, Xiao Qin Lu, Alexandros Molasiotis, Eleanor Holroyd

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


PURPOSE The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic facilitated the rapid development of digital detection surveillance (DDS) for outbreaks. This qualitative study examined how DDS for infectious diseases (ID) was perceived and experienced by primary care physicians and patients in order to highlight ethical considerations for promoting patients’ autonomy and health care rights. METHODS In-depth interviews were conducted with a purposefully selected group of 16 primary care physicians and 24 of their patients. The group was reflective of a range of ages, educational attainment, and clinical experiences from urban areas in northern and southern China. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and translated. Two researchers coded data and organized it into themes. A third researcher reviewed 15% of the data and discussed findings with the other researchers to assure accuracy. RESULTS Five themes were identified: ambiguity around the need for informed consent with usage of DDS; importance of autonomous decision making; potential for discrimination against vulnerable users of DDS for ID; risk of social inequity and disparate care outcomes; and authoritarian institutions’ responsibility for maintaining health data security. The adoption of DDS meant some patients would be reluctant to go to the hospital for fear of either being discriminated against or forced into quarantine. Certain groups (older people and children) were thought to be vulnerable to DDS misappropriation. CONCLUSIONS These findings indicate the paramount importance of establishing national and international ethical frameworks for DDS implementation. Frameworks should guide all aspects of ID surveillance, addressing privacy protection and health security, and underscored by principles of social equity and accountability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • AI
  • artificial intelligence
  • disease outbreaks
  • disease survelillances
  • ethical issue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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