American Medical Association, Chicago incubator launch health lab with virtual clinical settings

By Aditi Pai
08:33 am

Female Doctor with TabletThe American Medical Association has partnered with Matter, a Chicago-based incubator for healthcare companies, to build a digital health lab called the AMA Interaction Studio. This studio will be designed to help physicians, entrepreneurs, and health care professionals develop and test new health-focused technology.

“Innovation is a key driver in making the health system work better for everyone, and together we can educate and inspire entrepreneurs to deliver technologies that will transform health care,” AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James Madara said in a statement. “The AMA’s partnership with Matter will create an environment where entrepreneurs can directly collaborate with and gain insights from physicians and the health care community to improve and advance technologies, products and services that will improve the health of the nation.”

The studio will be located within Matter's incubator space, occupying a 450 square foot area, and it will offer entrepreneurs and researchers modular furniture as well as video and audio technologies to simulate a healthcare environment. In this set up, entrepreneurs developing new health products will be able to test and understand how these tools might fit into provider workflow. 

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Earlier this year, investment firm Andreessen Horowitz wrote a blog post about how, oftentimes, the entrepreneurs running digital health startups are not doctors. And as a result, there is a growing percentage of medicine that is, in effect, being practiced by software engineers, instead of doctors. The writer points out that: "To understand your personal diagnostic data, you might soon depend more upon an iPhone app developed in a garage than on your local MD."

Initiatives like the AMA Interaction Studio help entrepreneurs collaborate with clinicians to better understand what problems need to be solved.

The AMA itself has offered up a handful of health apps for consumers and clinicians. At the beginning of 2012 the association launched a weight loss app, called Weigh What Matters for iOS and Android. The app has since been taken off the market. AMA's medication adherence app, My Medications, which it first made available in late 2011, is still available for iOS at $0.99. In early 2011 the AMA announced its first smartphone app, a medical billing app called CPT E/M QuickRef. Soon after it launched an $8.99 rounding app called AMA Rounder.

The AMA isn't the only medical professional association to step up its outreach to healthtech startups in recent months.

In January, the American Academy of Family Physicians Chairman Dr. Glen Stream, who spoke at CES this year, said that his group went to the trade show to get the word out that they want to help health startups.

“We believe consumer health technologies — apps, wearables, self-diagnosis tools — have the potential to strengthen the patient-physician connection and improve health outcomes," Stream said at the time. "We are here to talk about where we see opportunity and need, and how we, working together with technology companies, can overcome the barriers that are keeping us from fully leveraging the power of consumer technology in primary care.”