Digital Health and Snake Oil

Digital health has many lofty but as yet unrealized goals. According to AMA CEO James L. Madara, the products of the digital health boom that span “from ineffective electronic health records, to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality”, can be considered digital snake oil. John Halamka of Life as a CIO contests Madara’s statement with his piece, “Why I Disagree with the Snake Oil Analogy”.

Halamka argues that the current state of digital health has accomplished exactly what it has set out to do. The current ecosystem exists as a foundation for the next generation of health tools to come. The efforts put into digital health should not be considered as null, as suggested by Madara. The digital shift of the healthcare system has taken its first steps towards patient and consumer-centric engagement. Madara’s qualms are not with digital health itself. Halamka suggests that:

“Rather than suggest that vendors are selling the electronic equivalent of snake oil, the AMA should recognize that the regulatory efforts of the past several years have achieved exactly the result that was intended and that stakeholder organizations such as the AMA should suggest a small number of desirable outcomes as our next goals.”

It’s safe to say we aren’t where we want to be but the journey isn’t over yet.