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Defining compassion in the digital health age: protocol for a scoping review
  1. David Wiljer1,2,3,4,5,
  2. Rebecca Charow1,
  3. Helen Costin4,6,
  4. Lydia Sequeira2,5,
  5. Melanie Anderson7,
  6. Gillian Strudwick2,5,
  7. Tim Tripp7,
  8. Allison Crawford3,5,6
  1. 1 UHN Digital, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4 The Wilson Centre, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  6. 6 Medical Psychiatry Alliance, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  7. 7 Library and Information Services, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr David Wiljer; david.wiljer{at}


Introduction The notion of compassion and compassionate care is playing an increasingly important role in health professional education and in the delivery of high-quality healthcare. Digital contexts, however, are not considered in the conceptualisation of compassionate care, nor is there guidance on how compassionate care is to be exercised while using digital health technologies. The widespread diffusion of digital health technologies provides new contexts for compassionate care, with both opportunities for new forms and instantiations of compassion as well as new challenges. How compassion is both understood and enacted within this evolving, digital realm has not been synthesised.

Methods and analysis This scoping review protocol follows Arksey and O’Malley’s methodology to examine dimensions of compassionate professional practice when digital technologies are integrated into clinical care. Relevant peer-reviewed literature will be identified using a search strategy developed by medical librarians, which applies to six databases of medical, computer and information systems disciplines. Eligibility of articles will be determined using the two-stage screening process consisting of (1) title and abstract scan, and (2) full-text review. Screening, abstracting and charting will be conducted by two independent reviewers, with a third reviewer available for resolution when consensus is not achieved. In order to look at the range of current research in this area, extracted data will be thematically analysed and validated by content experts. Descriptive statistics will be calculated where necessary.

Ethics and dissemination Research ethics approval and consent to participate is not required for this scoping review. The results of the review will inform resource development and strategy for Associated Medical Services (AMS) Healthcare, a Canadian charitable organisation at the forefront of advancing research and leadership development in health and humanities, as part of the AMS Phoenix Project: A Call to Caring, particularly for digital professionalism frameworks so that they are inclusive of a compassion competency.

  • compassion
  • empathy
  • digital health
  • ehealth
  • therapeutic alliance
  • professional-patient relations

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Contributors DW led the conceptualisation, design and development of this study and protocol. RC, HC and LS drafted the protocol and helped develop the research questions. MA, an experienced medical librarian, developed the search strategy, conducted the search and copy-edited the manuscript. TT, an experienced medical librarian, copy-edited the manuscript. AC and GS provided guidance to the study conceptualisation and design, and have revised all drafts of this manuscript for content and clarity. They will also assist with the validation of the emerging themes identified in the data analysis. All authors give approval to the publishing of this protocol manuscript.

  • Funding This work is supported by the Associated Medical Services, a Canadian charitable organisation at the forefront of advancing research and leadership development in health and humanities, as part of their AMS Phoenix Project: A Call to Caring.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.