The use of big data to address the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts poses ethical concerns that could undermine its benefits without clear governance guidelines that protect and respect patients and society, a University of Massachusetts Amherst study concludes.
In research published in the open-access journal BMC Medical Ethics, Elizabeth Evans, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, sought to identify concerns and develop recommendations for the ethical handling of opioid use disorder (OUD) information stored in the Public Health Data Warehouse (PHD).
“Efforts informed by big data are saving lives, yielding significant benefits,” the paper states. “Uses of big data may also undermine public trust in government and cause other unintended harms.”
Maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Health, the PHD was established in 2015 as an unprecedented public health monitoring and research tool to link state government data sets and provide timely information to