Physicians still use mobile for support, not so much with patients yet

By Brian Dolan
04:01 am

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsSmartphone adoption among physicians has started to level but there's been an "explosion" of adoption in tablets, Manhattan Research's VP of Research Monique Levy said during a recent webinar. Levy said that Manhattan's survey of physicians in the US found that 62 percent now have some kind of tablet device, almost twice as many as last year.

"I still cannot believe some of this data. I had to double and triple check it because it is just astounding," Levy said. The majority of these tablet toting doctors are iPad owners, but even among that group Levy was surprised to find that even they are planning to buy an additional tablet device in the next few months.

"We don't know if this is a replacement device [or] an additional device," Levy said, "but quite a few physicians already have more than one of these mid-sized devices -- whether they are tablets or e-readers. We are starting to see that there are going to be all sorts of issues around multiple device management. Physicians will have both personal devices and institutional devices. A 'multi-mid-size device world' is not out of the question in the next 18 months."

Levy said that you would think the runaway adoption rate for tablets among MDs might also mean adoption of eReaders would decline, but that was not the case. While it did eke up a bit, she said between eReaders and tablets there still hasn't emerged a device that can take on the iPad for dominance.

"The iPad will [continue to] be the dominant platform through the end of 2014, for sure," Levy said. "We haven't seen any major second player -- a little big from the Kindle Fire -- but beyond that lot of companies have one and two percent low single digits."

While tablet adoption has soared, Levy said doctors aren't finding the devices to be replacements for their smartphones. One of the biggest strikes against tablets, according to those physicians surveyed, were that tablets are too big for their lab coat pockets. Levy said that while new coats with larger pockets are available they "don't cut it," according to the thousands of physicians surveyed. Even though physicians love the larger screens, Levy said smartphones are not going to be pushed out of the market by mid-sized devices.

Instead, the three screen world of desktop/laptop, tablet, and smartphone will become the norm. About 40 percent of US physicians use all three of those screens today. Levy said that group actually spends more time on each device than physicians who just use one or two of them, meaning more devices are additive -- not cannibalizing.

When it comes to apps, physicians are pickier than consumers, she said. Physicians download fewer apps than the average consumer but they use a higher share of those apps that they do download. They also use their apps on a more frequent basis than the average consumer.

Between patient consultations, physicians are likely to use their tablet or a desktop/laptop if they are looking to read a full journal abstract, watch a video, or fully access an EHR. Levy said that some activities physicians refuse to do on a smartphone. During patient consultations the range of activities physicians are likely to do on smartphones is a little bit narrower, Levy said. These often include "simple tasks that have one or two steps," she said. Levy noted that the different use cases for tablets and smartphones is "quite a challenge from a marketing angle because the implications for product development" are that software developers may have to developing variations of their offerings for all of these screens.

Levy said that about 18 percent of physicians use some aspects of EHRs on their mobile devices -- even on their smartphones.

The biggest surprise Manhattan Research encountered during its survey was a lack of mobile offerings that help enable the "swivel effect" where the physician flips the screen around to explain something to their patients.

"We have not seen that happen to a large extent," Levy said. "These screens are mostly for physician support still."


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