“Dr. Topol has again mischaracterized the AMA’s position”


The Wall Street Journal article that I linked to yesterday highlights a small difference of opinion between Dr Eric Topol and the American Medical Association. Here’s the summary of the two sides of the story:

Dr Topol: A core problem is the medical profession. The average time it takes for a significant innovation to become standard clinical practice is 17 years. The Wall Street Journal had a piece about how 62% of doctors don’t use email with their patients. I mean, help me. This is 2012. This is resistance.

But what has really gotten me stirred up is the issue of whether patients should have access to their own health data. The AMA [American Medical Association] was lobbying the government that consumers should not have access directly to their DNA data, that it has to be mediated through a doctor. The AMA did a survey of 10,000 doctors, and 90% said they have no comfort using genomics in their clinical practice. So how could they be the ultimate mediator by which the public gets access to their DNA data? That really speaks to medical paternalism

AMA (in public comment on post): Dr. Topol has again mischaracterized the AMA’s position on direct-to-consumer genetic testing. This testing can be a valuable tool to aid in diagnostic and therapeutic decisions, and the AMA supports the rights of patients to obtain this information. Because the results of genetic tests are seldom straightforward and the health conditions they address are complex, they should be done with the guidance of a physician, genetic counselor, or other genetics specialist. These health professionals are best prepared to help patients understand the health conditions addressed by the tests and what type of action should occur based on the results. Without the benefit of proper medical counseling, patients may spend money on direct to consumer genetic tests needlessly or misinterpret the results of the tests, causing them to make unnecessary or unhealthy lifestyle changes.

I’m not sure there is a mischaracterization here at all. Perhaps the AMA isn’t appreciating the opportunity Dr Topol describes earlier in the article eg. “that in the future, many office visits will not be in person; they will be “house calls” through Skype and FaceTime and other video links“?

Already today we have an incredible opportunity to use Mobile Video Consultations to collapse time and space so that we can put one of the 10% of Doctors who are comfortable using genomics in their clinical practice in front of a patient who is considering using this data to make positive lifestyle changes.

Hopefully with the recent announcement of a collaboration with AT&T (a leading US 3G Mobile network) this opportunity is going to become obvious to the AMA very soon – and we can all start benefiting from this “Wireless Revolution”…

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