Unobtrusiveness in mHealth design and use: A systematic literature study

Maartje Niezen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


mHealth still is an emerging and rapidly developing field of study. mHealth promises to increase access to care at lower costs and with greater acceptance. The increased acceptance of mHealth is often related to the diminished obtrusiveness of the device monitoring, coaching, diagnosing, and / or collecting data of its user. However, such ‘unobtrusiveness’ not only has gains, but might also come at a cost. This paper focuses on how obtrusiveness currently plays a role in the design and use of mHealth, and what social and ethical implications are associated with this role. To gain such understanding a literature review of PubMed and Web of Science was performed. Discourse analysis is used to study the identified themes in the review and the introduction of unobtrusiveness in mHealth. This analysis demonstrates a tension between the modernist discourse and the humanist discourse, since both discourses articulate obtrusiveness in a different way. While unobtrusiveness seems desirable from a users’ acceptance and design perspective, mHealth that is designed to be unobtrusive does have reported social and ethical implications. The developers and designers of future mHealth services should be aware of these implications. Users should be informed about the trade-off they make between unobtrusive monitoring or coaching via mHealth and potential infringement of privacy, loss of autonomy and will-power.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnder Observation
Subtitle of host publicationThe Interplay Between eHealth and Surveillance
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015

Publication series

NameLaw, Governance and Technology Series, Sub-Series: Issues in Privacy and Data Protection


  • Unobtrusiveness
  • mHealth
  • Review
  • Discourse analysis


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