This week, James Madara, CEO of the AMA loosely referenced digital health technology as snake oil. He went one further suggesting it was the AMA that was going to save us from the looming threat of 21st century progress. It’s worth a read but for all the wrong reasons.
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.
Dr. Madara should read The Creative Destruction of Medicine and The Patient Will See You Now by Dr. Eric Topol. As the defining voice of 21st century medicine, Topol offers our generation and the AMA a blueprint for a hard-to-imagine world. More important, he offers a sobering reminder that the top-down, one-man care that defined medicine’s analog age has long passed.
Of course we have a long way to go. Change of this order doesn’t happen without repeated failure and adjustment. And yes, our profession can and should be integral in shaping medicine’s creative destruction. But more important than made-for-press release appearances at incubators and accelerators, reimagining medicine will necessitate a core shift in the hearts and minds of working doctors and those who lead us. Our culture must change.
As some wax nostalgic about manilla-folders-as-health IT, check out the metered response of John Halamka. He’s one of this generation’s greatest Health IT minds and reminded us this week how and why EHRs are where they are.
I might remind Dr. Madara that before referencing any part of digital innovation as snake oil he should recognize that there are countless MDs, patients, and health IT professionals working to move the world and shape our new digital culture in ways that he and the AMA can’t even begin to understand.
Willem Einthoven, father of electrophysiology and recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1924, shown moving medicine forward through tinkering and failure. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.