On November 16, the American Medical Association issued guidelines for the use of digital health products and apps. Physicians voted on this statement of policies as part of the AMA interim meeting held in Orlando, Florida. The principles suggested a way forward for physicians and insurance companies interested in taking advantage of wearable technology and other products for improving diagnostics and patient outcomes.
"The statement explained how digital products could bring new advantages."
Noting the importance of patient privacy and data security, the organization's statement laid out how digital health products could bring new advantages and insights for medical professionals. The statement encouraged the use of mobile health apps and products in administering care, as long as the necessary steps are taken to minimize any risk to patients' health or personal information. These developments offer a glimpse of how innovative medical products will be incorporated into everyday clinical practice in years to come.
Setting a course for digital medical products
The guidelines from the AMA gave a sense for how digital products might become a more widely used part of the medical toolbox for doctors in a variety of specialties. The statement backed the incorporation of products that are safe for patients and capable of gathering information that can be verified and shared with other systems. The organization supported providing insurance coverage and financial incentives for these initiatives, assuming several basic conditions are met.
The guidance set down in the statement included the following provisions:
- Products should serve to create or support a relationship between doctor and patient.
- Any findings must have a transparent basis in clinical evidence.
- The products work in accordance with best practices for patient health and safety.
- Medical device development should focus on offering tools for patient-centered care delivery, be based in team communication and make data portability a priority.
- Health care applications must conform to any applicable state laws and require that physicians using them be properly licensed.
For the AMA, establishing these principles is a way to influence the use of trackers, sensors and applications that are currently not heavily regulated. Incorporating new medical products into practice raises issues of liability for doctors that must still be further addressed, and the organization recommended physicians consult with legal experts when employing digital health products to ensure compliance. Immediate past president Dr. Steven J. Stack explained the AMA's position in a press release.
"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," Stack said. "It is essential for mHealth apps [to] support care delivery that is patient-centered, promotes care coordination and facilitates team-based communication."
What's ahead for digital health products
The AMA's statement brought attention to the changes occurring in health care as a result of new product design and development. For physicians, these advances raise myriad questions about how to achieve the best patient-care outcomes, safeguard sensitive data and comply with state and federal law. However, they also spotlight possibilities for transforming the ways doctors and patients gather important information and interact.
In fact, the guidelines are just the latest sign of interest in the potential of digital health products among the AMA membership. A survey of 1,300 physicians released in September found widespread enthusiasm and optimism for the use of these products in patient care. Among those surveyed, 85 percent said digital health solutions provided advantages, and they were hopeful for continued improvements in efficiency, safety and diagnostic ability.
"The guidelines indicate interest in the potential of digital health products."
That research showed 42 percent of doctors had already made digital sharing of electronic clinical data part of the process for consultations and referrals, and 21 percent intended to do so. Twenty-eight percent said they used clinical-decision support, and 35 percent stated they intended to incorporate remote monitoring. Further, 26 percent were using digital products for enhancing patient engagement, and 30 percent planned to adopt them.
Others working in the field of health care technology have expressed optimism about the potential health benefits from generating greater engagement with mobile products. MedCity News suggested continued improvements in applications and increased ease in getting started could boost patients' investment in their own treatment and pay dividends for their results over time.
The AMA's guidelines for the adoption of digital products and apps in medical diagnosis and treatment demonstrate the growing appeal of this approach to collecting and sharing data and engaging patients. While numerous questions remain to be worked out as more physicians take advantage of these methods, the AMA's principles present a clearer picture of how future initiatives can take advantage of increased convenience while meeting the highest standards for care and security.