Medical association chief: Much of digital health is “snake oil”

Last week, American Medical Association CEO James Madara inflamed the Internet with comments about how much of digital health is “snake oil.” Madara defended his comments in an interview Friday with Stat News, and he cited a Commonwealth Fund study that investigated 1,000 health-care apps, and found that just 43% of iOS apps and 27% of Android apps were likely to be useful.

From the speech: 

[A]ppearing 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—or that actually impede care, confuse patients and waste our time. From ineffective electronic health records, to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality. This is the digital snake oil of the early 21st century.  

And one of several rebuttals via Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, a digital health advocate:

The comments showcase the Shirky Principle: institutions will work to preserve the problem to which they are the solution. But the health care world and the patients it serves has grown up and around the medical profession. Medical progress will happen with or without the blessing of any one professional group.