Upon graduating from medical school, many newly-minted physicians take part in a very old tradition: they take the Hippocratic Oath to serve in the best interest of their patients. But as connected medical technologies are increasingly being used to support and augment the role of clinicians, a new question arises: should those who create and deploy such technologies take a similar oath?
The development of software products in healthcare is an interdisciplinary process, one that requires deep knowledge and support from a range of experts including clinicians, ethicists, security researchers, data scientists, specialists in user experience and patient engagement, clinicians, and regulators. No single person holds the key to these specialized technologies, and now more than ever it is important to build communities that can bring these products to market safely, effectively, and ethically.
Historically, professional societies such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) have provided a professional home to experts in their respective fields, helping specialists navigate the ethical challenges presented by new technologies and offering educational and training opportunities. However, in an environment marked by rapid change and fast-paced programs aimed at leveraging new tools for better health outcomes, we also see savvy citizen-scientists and technologists working to develop impactful digital medical products outside of the traditional pathways for healthcare professional development and support.
Amid such rapid change, it’s reasonable to ask: where is the professional home for those who practice digital medicine?
Earlier this week, we were part of the launch of a new organization – The Digital Medicine Society (DiMe). Comprising stakeholders who represent a diverse spectrum of skills, perspectives, and experiences, DiMe is a not-for-profit professional group devoted to organizing and enabling individuals from the emerging digital medicine community around three key priorities: building a high-quality evidence base for digital medicine; overcoming fragmentation of effort and lack of alignment; and breaking down the barriers that tend to confine technical and methodological progress to isolated silos.
The tools of digital medicine are defined by a rigorous evidence base. Through measurement and intervention, they support all aspects of medical practice, including treatment, recovery, disease prevention, and the promotion of health for individuals and across populations. As the field of digital health professionalizes and gains access to an ever-growing sources of actionable data, connected technologies are not only being integrated into traditional healthcare, but are creating new opportunities for more personalized care at home. At the same time, however, these transformative changes are raising new and often complex questions about validation, cybersecurity, data rights, privacy, and governance – all of which must be answered and accounted for by a diverse group of collaborators.
Although the Digital Therapeutics Alliance and the NODE.health network both support groups that are working to bring digital products to market, similar organizations that provide a professional home for the individual are lacking. Today it is more important than ever to self-organize across multiple partners to create cohesive visions to build an interoperable, safe, effective, and ethical health care system. DiMe is positioned to serve as a driver in that organizing process.
Could the Digital Medical Society (DiMe) Be Your Professional Home?
Organizations like Duke Forge have acted as conveners for many of these interdisciplinary groups, bringing together clinicians, data scientists, patient representatives, and many practitioners of digital medicine to ensure these technologies are worthy of the trust that patients, clinicians, and the public place in them. The debut of the Digital Medicine Society, a 501(c)3 that serves the individual practitioners of digital medicine, represents a critically important continuation and extension of these efforts. In a recent conversation with Forge Director Robert Califf, MD, he noted that the creation and nurturing of a skilled and diverse workforce are essential elements for realizing the full potential of digital medicine.
“If digital medicine is going to have the needed impact on health and health disparity it needs an impeccably trustworthy evidence base,” he said, further noting that a rigorous scientific framework and workforce with the right knowledge, skills, and experiences, are likewise essential for success.
As the field of digital health professionalizes and gains access to an ever-growing sources of actionable data, connected technologies are not only being integrated into traditional healthcare, but are creating new opportunities for more personalized care at home. At the same time, however, these transformative changes are raising new and often complex questions about validation, cybersecurity, data rights, privacy, and governance – all of which must be answered and accounted for by a diverse group of collaborators.
Whether you are a software engineer, a data scientist, a citizen scientist, a white-hat hacker, or a clinician working to bring connected technologies into your practice, becoming a member of DiMe will support your career and position you to influence how digital medicine is developed to best serve both patients and citizens who deserve better and more personalized care.
About the Authors
Andy Coravos (@Andrea Coravos) is the CEO and co-founder of Elektra Labs, and a member of the Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science. Formerly an Entrepreneur in Residence in the FDA's Digital Health Unit, Andy is focused on creating communities to bring to market safe, effective and ethical connected technologies. She currently serves on the leadership team of the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe).
Bray Patrick-Lake (@BrayPatrickLake) is the Director of Stakeholder Engagement and the Research Together program lead at Duke Clinical Research Institute where she supports efforts to catalyze the co-design of research and new medical products by patients and caregivers, health advocacy organizations, sponsors, technologists, and clinician investigators. She currently serves on the Digital Medicine Society’s Scientific Leadership Board.