AMA's James Madara: Healthcare must separate 'digital snake oil from the useful' tools ­­

Just as the American Medical Association in the mid-19th century focused on eliminating quackery and “snake oil,” it now must ferret out and quell the “digital dystopia” that fails to improve healthcare or make it more efficient, AMA CEO James L. Madara, M.D., said in an address at the association's annual meeting Saturday.

Amid rapid development in the digital world that brings tools like robotic surgery and telemedicine, he said, “appearing in disguise among these positive products are other digital so-called advancements that don't have an appropriate evidence base, or that just don't work that well.

"Today we're tasked with separating the digital snake oil from the useful--and potentially magnificent--digital tools. The future is not about eliminating physicians, it's about leveraging physicians," he said. 

Among these he mentioned ineffective electronic health records, digital health products including home blood-test kits sold directly to consumers and apps of questionable quality. Even useful tools often fail to enrich the doctor-patient relationship or create more time for doing so, he said.

The AMA’s task now is separating the useful tools from the digital noise, he said. It’s working with vendors and federal agencies that regulate them to do just that.

He also pointed to other innovation activities undertaken by the AMA, including working with the Chicago-based incubator MATTER and the Silicon Valley innovation studio Health 2047.

To learn more:
- here's the speech