Definitions of digital biomarkers: a systematic mapping of the biomedical literature

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Technological devices such as smartphones, wearables and virtual assistants enable health data collection, serving as digital alternatives to conventional biomarkers. We aimed to provide a systematic overview of emerging literature on ‘digital biomarkers,’ covering definitions, features and citations in biomedical research.


We analysed all articles in PubMed that used ‘digital biomarker(s)’ in title or abstract, considering any study involving humans and any review, editorial, perspective or opinion-based articles up to 8 March 2023. We systematically extracted characteristics of publications and research studies, and any definitions and features of ‘digital biomarkers’ mentioned. We described the most influential literature on digital biomarkers and their definitions using thematic categorisations of definitions considering the Food and Drug Administration Biomarkers, EndpointS and other Tools framework (ie, data type, data collection method, purpose of biomarker), analysing structural similarity of definitions by performing text and citation analyses.


We identified 415 articles using ‘digital biomarker’ between 2014 and 2023 (median 2021). The majority (283 articles; 68%) were primary research. Notably, 287 articles (69%) did not provide a definition of digital biomarkers. Among the 128 articles with definitions, there were 127 different ones. Of these, 78 considered data collection, 56 data type, 50 purpose and 23 included all three components. Those 128 articles with a definition had a median of 6 citations, with the top 10 each presenting distinct definitions.


The definitions of digital biomarkers vary significantly, indicating a lack of consensus in this emerging field. Our overview highlights key defining characteristics, which could guide the development of a more harmonised accepted definition.

Macias Alonso, A. K., Hirt, J., Woelfle, T., Janiaud, P., Hemkens, L. G.

Macias Alonso, A. K., Hirt, J., Woelfle, T., Janiaud, P., Hemkens, L. G.

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