Despite the explosion in physician adoption of smartphones and tablets, most doctors still use mobile devices as shiny toys rather than clinical tools, according to a new national survey.
About 20 percent of U.S. physicians use smartphones for e-prescribing, accessing electronic health records or other clinical needs, says the 2012 National Physician Survey, conducted by Atlanta-based health and wellness social network Sharecare and its The Little Blue Book subsidiary. About 12 percent of doctors use iPads for clinical purposes, and 9 percent employ some other brand of tablet for accessing or inputting clinical data.
"As could be expected, the desktop PC is by far the most commonly used tool, with the laptop a distant second," the study says. "It seems administrative tasks are still anchored to the desktop PC, and that both e-prescribing and EMR/EHR use run quite closely in terms of prevalence on any piece of hardware."
Physician directory publisher The Little Blue Book reports "higher use of mobile devices for clinical reasons, across the board – in particular with smartphones." But the survey did not ask about mobile devices in 2011, when The Little Blue Book was owned by Thomson Reuters. Sharecare, a company started by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and TV physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, purchased the directory publisher early this year.
Sharecare representatives were not immediately available to explain the statement or provide data showing growth. However, the report sees the same upward trajectory that others have found. "The development of clinical solutions for both the iPad and smartphones show the start of a usage trend that is likely to continue, with clinical use of these tools reported as more prevalent than e-prescribing," the study says.
According to the survey, which included 1,190 physicians across 75 specialties, about 30 percent of specialty surgeons have iPads for clinical purposes, compared to just 10 percent of primary care doctors.
In other findings not directly related to mobility, a large majority of doctors, 81 percent, say that administrative tasks were "overwhelming" their clinical interactions. Slightly more than a third of physicians are now communicating with colleagues via e-mail and 20 percent are doing so with patients, despite the fact that HIPAA does not consider standard e-mail a secure channel for transmitting protected health information.
About 6 percent of physicians are texting patients.