New AMA Network to Give Doctors a Stronger Say in Tech

Why the move could help physicians, healthcare organizations, and innovators.

To enable doctors to better shape the emerging landscape of digital health tools, the American Medical Association (AMA) has launched the Physician Innovation Network. The online community will help working physicians find paid or volunteer opportunities to work with tech companies.

The platform will also feature learning resources, like virtual panel discussions, and openings for tech companies to seek feedback on their solutions. They will be able to search for doctors with specific expertise to better inform their tool development, a step forward that many healthcare providers have long desired.

“We know that when physician expertise is aligned with input from partners on the leading edge of health technology, we produce meaningful results,” AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, said in a statement. “The Physician Innovation Network will help ensure that physicians play a greater role in leading digital health innovations.”

In the absence of medical input, the health tech sphere runs the risk of pushing “digital snake oil,” in the words of AMA CEO James L. Madara, MD. He used the phrase in an address last summer to the AMA’s House of Delegates. After citing the good developments that tech has brought to healthcare, like telehealth, robotic surgery, and targeted biologics, he warned that “appearing in disguise…are other digital so-called advancements that don't have an appropriate evidence base, or just don't work that well—or actually impede care, confuse patients and waste our time.”

In a recent interview with Healthcare Analytics News, a technology company executive echoed the need for physicians to shape innovation. “The last thing you want is a bunch of technologists in a room deciding, ‘We understand this very patient. Now let's send them this information or give them this kind of support,’ because technologists aren't going to be able to figure out what's going to work best for patients,” said Jim O’Donoghue, vice president of S3 Connected Health.

In addition to the new Physician Innovation Network, the AMA’s statement showcased its other efforts to encourage innovative solutions, including the Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI) it launched last week. The IHMI is intended to improve interoperability by bringing together tech giants like IBM and Cerner with medical institutions like Intermountain Health and the American Heart Association.