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AMA Adopts Principles to Promote Safe and Effective Mobile Health Apps

The American Medical Association (AMA) believes mobile health application (mHealth apps) and devices that promote safe and effective patient care have the potential to be integrated into everyday practice.

During the AMA Interim Meeting, physicians voted to approve a list of principles to guide coverage and payment policies supporting the use of mHealth apps and associated devices that are accurate, effective, safe and secure.

Mobile health apps and associated digital health devices, trackers and sensors can vary greatly in functionality, accuracy, safety and effectiveness. While physicians are optimistic about digital health innovation and its potential medical benefits, mHealth apps and devices that are not safe and 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 AMA's advocacy promoting coverage, payment and financial incentive mechanisms will be guided by the following principles to support the use of mHealth apps and associated devices, trackers and sensors by patients, physicians and others that:

  • Support the establishment or continuation of a valid patient-physician relationship
  • Have a clinical evidence base to support their use in order to ensure mHealth app safety and effectiveness
  • Follow evidence-based practice guidelines, to the degree they are available, to ensure patient safety, quality of care and positive health outcomes
  • Support care delivery that is patient-centered, promotes care coordination and facilitates team-based communication
  • Support data portability and interoperability in order to promote care coordination through medical home and accountable care models
  • Abide by state licensure laws and state medical practice laws and requirements in the state in which the patient receives services facilitated by the app
  • Require that physicians and other health practitioners delivering services through the app be licensed in the state where the patient receives services, or be providing these services as otherwise authorized by that state's medical board
  • Ensure that the delivery of any services via the app be consistent with state scope of practice laws

Patient privacy and data security in digital health are also key AMA concerns since mHealth apps and devices can be subject to data breaches that disclose personal health information. The new AMA policy encourages physicians and the mobile app industry to promote patient awareness of the varying levels data privacy and security afforded by mHealth apps.

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