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The AMA’s Guiding Principles for Digital Health Tools

Although the American Medical Association (AMA) wasn’t quick to jump on the digital health bandwagon, the organization now embraces technologies like telemedicine, wearable health monitors, patient portals, and some consumer-oriented healthcare apps. While the organization acknowledges the vast potential that digital health tools have for making the healthcare system more efficient and improving health outcomes for patients, they do note that not all health applications and devices are created equally. To that end, at last year’s Interim Meeting in Orlando, they developed a list of guiding principles for electronic healthcare technologies.

“The American Medical Association (AMA) believes mobile health applications (mHealth apps) and devices that promote safe and effective patient care have the potential to be integrated into everyday practice,” the organization posted on their website. “While physicians are optimistic about digital health innovation and its potential medical benefits, mHealth apps and device that are not safe can pose threats to the health and safety of patients. AMA policy acknowledges the need to expand the evidence base necessary to show the accuracy, effectiveness, safety, and security of mHealth apps.”

“The new AMA principles aim to foster the integration of digital health innovations into clinical practice by promoting coverage and payment policies that are contingent upon whether mHealth apps and related devices are evidence-based, validated, interoperable and actionable,” AMA Immediate Past President Dr. Steven J. Stack said in a statement.

The AMA’s guiding principles outline that digital technologies to be used by patients and doctors meet the following standards. They should:

  • Follow evidence-based practice guidelines to ensure patient safety and quality of outcomes;
  • Support establishment or continuation of valid doctor-patient relationships;
  • Support care delivery that is patient-centered and promotes care coordination;
  • Support data portability and interoperability;
  • Abide by state licensure and medical practice laws;
  • Require health practitioners who are using the app to be licensed in the state where the patient is receiving care.

Patient Privacy is Paramount

Patient privacy and data security in digital health are also critical AMA concerns since data breaches related to apps and devices may disclose personal health information. AMA policy encourages healthcare providers and the digital health industry to promote patient awareness about the varying levels data security built into mobile and online health applications.

Additional Initiatives to Advance Digital Health Innovation

The AMA is focused on how to bring the physician voice into the technology space. To that end, they are partnering with other leaders to look for ways to make digital health technology work better for patients and healthcare providers. The AMA wants to promote innovations that are patient-centered, outcome focused, evidence-based, and interoperable. These partnerships include:

  • The AMA has become a founding partner to Health2047, a healthcare innovation company in San Francisco that combines strategy, design and venture disciplines, working with businesses, physicians and entrepreneurs to improve health care.
  • The organization has entered into an expanded partnership with MATTER, a Chicago-based health care technology incubator. The partnership is designed to encourage entrepreneurs and physicians to collaborate on the development of new technologies, services, and products in a simulated healthcare environment.
  • A new collaboration with IDEA Labs, a student-run biotechnology incubator that helps inspire and support the next generation of young entrepreneurs to tackle unmet needs in healthcare delivery and clinical medicine, has been formed.
  • The AMA has entered into an advisory role to the SMART project, which was created to ensure EHR systems work better for healthcare providers and patients. A key component of this effort is the development of a flexible information infrastructure that allows for free, open source development of plug-and-play apps to increase interoperability among healthcare technologies, including EHRs, in a more cost-effective way.
  • A partnership with Omada Health and Intermountain Healthcare has been formed to introduce evidence-based, technology-enabled care models that are key to addressing the more than 86 million Americans who currently have prediabetes.

The AMA clearly has an important role in helping physicians and other healthcare providers navigate the increasingly complex digital and mobile health landscape. The principles set out by the organization are a good standard for assessing the value of the new innovations and services that are profoundly changing how people interact with healthcare providers.