AMA releases guidelines for health apps adoption

The American Medical Association (AMA) is taking a stand on health apps, joining other associations to urge the need for guidelines for the development and application of health apps in the clinical setting.

The health apps market has exploded in the past 5 years—some 200,000 apps are available now—but few guidelines exist to help caregivers and consumers find the best ones.

The AMA released its “Principles to Promote Safe, Effective mHealth Applications” as a guidelines for how clinicians can identify meaningful apps and incorporate them into their practice.

Of special concern are the “wearable” apps that gather data and often report that data to the clinician or case manager. “Mobile health apps and associated digital health devices, trackers and sensors can vary greatly in functionality, accuracy, safety and effectiveness,” the AMA guidelines state. “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.”

What about clinician reimbursement for the use of health apps? The AMA principles outline the characteristics of health apps that would gain the AMA’s advocacy for reimbursement and other financial incentives, including apps 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; and
  • Ensure that the delivery of any services via the app be consistent with state scope of practice laws.


Topics: Articles , Technology & IT , Wearables