A few months ago, the group’s annual meeting, American Medical Association head Dr. James Madara ignited a firestorm of controversy when he suggested that many direct to consumer digital health products, apps and even EMRs were “the digital snake oil of the early 21st century.” Madara, who as far as I can tell never backed down completely from that statement, certainly raised a few hackles with his pronouncement.
Now, the AMA has come out with the results of physician survey whose results suggest that community doctors may be more excited about digital health’s potential than the AMA leader. The survey found that physicians are optimistic about digital health, though some issues must be addressed before they will be ready to adopt such technologies.
The study, which was backed by the AMA and conducted by research firm Kantar TNS, surveyed 1,300 physicians between July 7 and 18. Its content addressed a wide range of digital health technologies, including mobile apps, remote monitoring, wearables, mobile health and telemedicine.
Key findings of the study include the following:
- While physicians across all age groups, practice settings and tenures were optimistic about the potential for digital health, their level of enthusiasm was greater than their current adoption rates.
- The majority of physicians surveyed (85% of respondents) believe that digital health solutions can have a positive impact on patient care.
- Physicians reported that they were optimistic a digital health can reduce burnout, while improving practice efficiency, patient safety and diagnostic capabilities.
- Physicians said liability coverage, data privacy and integration of digital health tools with EMR workflows were critical to digital health adoption, as well as the availability of easy-to-use technologies which are proven to be effective and reimbursement for time spent conducting virtual visits.
All told, physicians seem willing to use digital health tools if they fit into their clinical practice. And now, it seems that the AMA wants to get out ahead of this wave, as long as the tools meet their demands. “The AMA is dedicated to shaping a future when digital health tools are evidence based, validated, interoperable, and actionable,” said AMA Immediate Past President Steven J. Stack, M.D
By the way, though it hasn’t publicized them highly, the AMA noted that it has already dipped its oar into several digital health-related ventures:
- It serves as founding partner to Health2047, a San Francisco-based health care innovation company that combines strategy, design and venture disciplines.
- It’s involved in a partnership with Chicago-based incubator MATTER, to allow entrepreneurs and physicians to collaborate on the development of new technologies, services and products in a simulated health care environment.
- It’s collaborating with IDEA Labs, a student-run biotechnology incubator, that helps to support the next generation of young entrepreneurs to tackle unmet needs in healthcare delivery and clinical medicine.
- It’s playing an advisory role to the SMART project, whose key mission is the development of a flexible information infrastructure that allows for free, open development of plug-and-play apps to increase interoperability among health care technologies, including EHRs, in a more cost-effective way.
- It’s involved in a partnership with Omada Health and Intermountain Healthcare that has introduced evidence-based, technology-enabled care models addressing prediabetes.
Personally, I have little doubt that this survey is a direct response to the “snake oil” speech. But regardless of why the AMA is seeking a rapproachment with digital health players, it’s a good thing. I’m just happy to see the venerable physicians’ group come down on the side of progress.