Authentication of patients in medicine via online system should be discussed ethically

Credit: Kogetsu, Ogishima & Kato 2018

With the increase in data volume and dissemination of ICT, online system is being applied to medical research/treatment with high expectations. Not only exchange of research data, but also various modes of communication, including the informed consent process, are being promoted, and it is anticipated that individuals will proactively participate in research by their own volition, forming partnerships between researchers and participants.

At the same time, in order for individuals to participate in medical research/treatment without anxiety, ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) associated with the implementation of electronic methods for medical research/treatment should be addressed in earnest. However, research on authentication systems have mostly been performed from a technical perspective, so ethical issues, such as proof of user intent, have not yet been fully discussed.

In this study, the researchers pointed out that authentication systems for medical research/treatment need not only to prevent impersonation, but also to prove intent of research participants and patients.

The researchers discussed authentication by separating "authentication at the time of registration" and "authentication at the time of login" (Figure). Focusing on the latter, the researchers clarified roles and set out methods of authentication. They discussed problems in current authentication systems from the ethical viewpoints of (1) respect for autonomy, (2) privacy protection, and (3) establishing a relationship of trust. Their research results were published in Frontiers in Genetics.

Lead author Atsushi Kogetsu said, "After much consideration, we proposed two-factor authentication as a workable solution, in which authentication is performed again using a one-off password after authentication via user ID and password. Some ICT specialists had proposed three-factor authentication, including biometrics, but we thought that biometrics had its own challenges and that current three-factor authentication might be cumbersome for users. Based on that, we also proposed the possibility of the necessity of biometrics and its requirements."

This group's achievements will contribute to building systems for medical research/ treatment in which individuals can participate free of anxiety. The research results will become a basis for discussion for ELSI not only about medical research/treatment using ICT, but also about ICT itself in various fields.


Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and now has expanded to one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities. The University has now embarked on open research revolution from a position as Japan's most innovative university and among the most innovative institutions in the world according to Reuters 2015 Top 100 Innovative Universities and the Nature Index Innovation 2017. The university's ability to innovate from the stage of fundamental research through the creation of useful technology with economic impact stems from its broad disciplinary spectrum.


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Saori Obayashi

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