The AMA this week approved guidance on the safe and effective use of mobile health applications and other digital health devices like trackers and sensors.
The new AMA policy, voted on by the nation's largest physicians' association at its 2016 AMA Interim Meeting, comes as digital health devices are increasingly being recommended to patients to encourage wellness. Yet, the devices are unregulated, rarely covered by insurance, and can be compromised.
“It is essential mHealth apps support care delivery that is patient-centered, promotes care coordination and facilitates team-based communication,” said Dr. Steven Stack, immediate past president of the AMA.
The AMA's principles emphasize the need for digital tools to be supported by clinical evidence and “follow evidence-based practice.”
Digital tools should support patient-centered care and the relationship between the patient and their physician, the AMA states.
Other guidance suggests mobile apps should abide by state medical practice laws. Physicians who deliver services through apps should be licensed in the state where the patient receives care.
The AMA also said that physicians should receive legal counsel on patient privacy and security standards of a digital health app since “mHealth apps and devices can be subject to data breaches that disclose personal health information,” the AMA stated in a news release.
The AMA also said physicians should warn patients of the potential privacy and safety risks when they recommend the use of certain digital health apps “given the lack of regulation” of the technology.
The association is also currently looking into potential liability risks for physicians who use, recommend or prescribe mobile health apps.
The new guidance is the most recent effort from the AMA to support digital health tools that are safe for patients. In June, AMA CEO Dr. James Madara voiced concern that digital tools often don't work or can be harmful for patients. The association has since partnered with several health technology companies “to bring the physician voice into the innovation space,” the AMA said.
The AMA hopes increased use of apps will lead to more coverage options, if the devices prove successful.
Aetna earlier this year announced it will give an Apple Watch to its employees for free as part of its wellness program. Aetna also will subsidize a “significant portion” of the Apple Watch cost for some large employers and groups that contract with Aetna for health insurance services.