The American Medical Association's CEO Dr. James Madara kicked off the House of Delegates at the AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago yesterday by drawing parallels between the "quackery" and "snake oil" common among self-proclaimed doctors a year ago, and direct-to-consumer digital health services today.
“Today we have really remarkable tools -- robotic surgery, new forms of radiation treatment, targeted biologics; and we live in a time of rapid development in the digital world -- telemedicine as an example. But appearing in disguise among these positive products are other digital so-called advancements that don’t have an appropriate evidence base, or just don’t work that well -- or actually impede care, confuse patients and waste our time. From ineffective electronic health records, to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality – it’s the digital snake oil of the early 21st century,” Madara said according to his prepared remarks.
Madara's comments also criticized digital health tools that sought to replace the physician's role in some way.
“Even those digital products that might be helpful often lack a way of enriching the relationship between the physician and the patient. More and more we’re seeing digital tools in medicine that, unlike digital tools in other industries, make the provision of care less, not more, efficient. And these digital tools often don’t connect with each other—interoperability remains a dream. We were told that interoperability was the future; we didn’t expect that it would always be in the future," he said.
Madara went on to explain that digital health needed to work in concert with physicians not aim to replace them:
"The future is not about eliminating physicians, it’s about leveraging physicians. That means leveraging physicians by providing digital and other tools that work like they do in virtually all other industries – making our environments more supportive, providing the data we actually need in an organized, efficient way, and saving time so we can spend more of it with our patients.”
He also touched on the AMA's own efforts to explore digital health and to guide companies working with these technologies. In Silicon Valley the AMA helped launch an incubator, called Health 2047, with a $15 million investment. The company is focused on bringing together technology companies, product companies, providers, and payers to bring digital health to market sooner. In Chicago the association has its AMA Interaction Studio at Matter, which it describes as a Chicago-based healthcare community hub and entrepreneurial incubator that adds the physician perspective to "ideation and collaboration" with health tech startups.
At this meeting the AMA was also set to vote on whether or not to adopt ethical guidelines for telemedicine, which the group pushed off a year ago.