Survey: More medical students look to mobile first for reference

By Jonah Comstock
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epocrates survey 2For the next generation of doctors, 66 percent turn to the Internet or a mobile device first for clinical answers, according to a recently released survey by physician reference app maker Epocrates.

In their eighth "Future Physicians of America" survey, the company, which is now an athenahealth subsidiary, talked to 1,026 current medical students about a number of topics, including digital habits. The survey was conducted online in July and respondents came from over 200 medical schools in all 50 states and included first- through fourth-year students.

Of the 66 percent who turned to digital sources first, 53 percent went to mobile sources while 47 percent consulted the internet. The study found that 54 percent of medical students surveyed used a tablet in their training, a 31 percent increase from 2012. Of those, only 18 percent are required to use tablets for their training; the other 82 percent use them voluntarily. The top 3 use cases for tablets cited by participants were: looking up clinical data, accessing patient records, and communicating with colleagues. Fifty-three percent of the whole group reported using Epocrates daily.

Medical students were less bullish on social media questions: 91 percent said it was unacceptable to friend a patient on Facebook and 82 percent were opposed to posting pictures of a case or discussing a case online. However, 82 percent said they would recommend a health-related app to future patients.

On the subject of patient engagement, 72 percent of students said they planned to practice patient-centered care, with 67 percent saying they were satisfied with their patient-centered care training.

Physicians felt less informed about Accountable Care Organizations. In fact, 72 percent said they felt uninformed about ACOs, down only slightly from 76 percent in 2011. This information discrepancy is important, because while uninformed students were split fifty-fifty on whether ACOs would have a positive or negative effect on medicine, those who claimed to be informed about ACOs were more inclined to believe they would have a positive effect -- 41 percent said they would, as opposed to 16 percent predicting a negative effect (the other 43 percent didn't respond or weren't clear.)