Hofmann's academic interests
Hofmann’s research on health technology aims at patient safety through planned management. It emphasises that not only knowledge about the device, but also of the methodology and organization are important for safe, effective and efficient use of technology in health care. The objective of the research has been to clarify the preconditions for good use of health technology.
Philosophy of medicine
In the philosophy of medicine, Hofmann has concentrated on basic concepts in health care, such as disease, health, effectiveness, and utility. His work on the concept of disease highlights the complexity of profound philosophical issues that are involved in the question “what is disease?”, especially how facts and values are intertwined. He argues that the concept of disease is complex, vague, but not indefinable, and that health and disease are disjunctive concepts that are neither contradictory nor contrary and neither exhaustive nor exclusive. According to Hofmann you can be both healthy and have a disease at the same time, and you can be in a state where you are neither healthy nor diseased. Much of this research is summarized in the book What is disease? Other research topics include conceptual analysis of health care needs, uncertainty, and futility.
His research in bio(medical) ethics includes studies on assisted reproductive technologies (ART), autonomy, informed consent, organ donation, biobanking, and bariatric surgery. Hofmann appears to have an eclectic approach to ethics, as he has used a wide range of methods, such as consequentialism (utilitarianism), deontological ethics (Kantianism), principlism, virtue ethics, and casuistry, often in combination. His research also includes empirical studies in health services and in research ethics.
Health technology assessment
Health technology assessment (HTA) is another main area that has preoccupied Hofmann. He has developed a “Socratic (axiological) approach for ethics in HTA.”The essence of the approach is to reveal the values involved in the development, assessment, implementation, and use of health technologies in order to facilitate open, transparent, and sound decision making processes. The Socratic approach forms the basis of the EUnetHTA HTA Core Model for Medical and Surgical Interventions. Hofmann has addressed ethical issues with health technologies for different areas, such as intracytoplasmatic sperm injection (ICSI), proton therapy, positron-emision-tomography (PET), palliative and bariatric surgery, ultrasound screening, new-born screening, HPV-vaccination, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
Philosophy of health sciences and Technology
In the philosophy of health sciences and technology Hofmann tries to identify how technology, methodology, heuristics, research design, and basic concepts, that are treated as descriptive and value neutral issues by many health care professionals, are prescriptive and value-laden. He argues that what characterizes science and technology is not only its scientific methodology and technical specifications (i.e. the professional norms), but also its moral norms. On the other hand he wants to dismantle the mystical power of technology identified in terms such as “the technological imperative” and to make sure that the responsibility for technology stays within the realm of the human beings that produce, assess, buy, implement, and use technology. Hofmann acknowledges that new health technologies may bust traditional conceptions and norms, and argues that analogical expansion, may be useful or even necessary to frame the descriptive and the prescriptive aspects of new health technology.
Hofmann’s research dwells in the intersection between epistemology and ethics. His declared aim is to expose the interplay between professional and moral norms in order to increase awareness, openness, and transparency.