Future Physicians Weigh in on Importance of Technology in Medicine

By Brian Dolan
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Fourth Annual Survey by Epocrates Gives U.S. Medical Students Voice on Pressing Issues

SAN MATEO, Calif. -- Medical students give the U.S. healthcare system a poor grade and consider technology a ‘must have' for their future practice. These opinions and technology priorities, including mobile reference and electronic medical records (EMRs), are represented in the fourth annual Future Physicians of America survey by Epocrates, Inc., the leading provider of mobile medical technology.

More than 1,000 medical students voiced their opinions on pressing topics and issues, including:

Smartphones: a critical tool for physicians-in-training - Medical students rely heavily on technology as they prepare to become our nation's next physicians. The majority - nearly 90 percent - of students surveyed view the information available through mobile or online drug and disease references, such as Epocrates, as highly credible, second only to medical journals. Students also confess they are more than four times more likely to consult a mobile reference for a clinical question than ask their attending physician.

The survey found 45 percent of respondents currently use an iPhoneTM or iPod® touchTM, followed by Palm® and BlackBerry® devices. Apple's mobile devices are especially appealing to medical students with nearly 60 percent of non-smartphone users planning to purchase one within the next year.

Technology remains a central component in medicine and education - Each year, survey participants are asked to rate their medical school experience, critiquing factors such as clinical training and quality of education. This year, schools saw the greatest improvement in the area of the integration of medicine and technology. Students graded this topic with an "A-," up from a "B" in 2008 and "B-" in 2007. Furthermore, 84 percent of medical students had experience with an EMR during their clinical rotations, and 90 percent said use of an EMR will be an important factor in choosing where to practice medicine.

Nearly 60 percent of the medical students surveyed indicate they use the decision-support software at least twice daily. Students report using Epocrates most often to confirm proper drug doses, check for adverse reactions and interactions, and consult the disease reference guide.

State of healthcare in review - Students also have strong opinions on the state of the U.S. healthcare system; only 28 percent gave it high marks (3 percent "A," 25 percent a "B") and more than 70 percent assigned a "C" grade or lower. This is a significant decrease since students first graded the system in 2006 with 42 percent assigning a "B" for a good healthcare system. Complexities and challenges in healthcare may contribute to students' belief (53 percent) that medical school is harder today compared to when their attendees were likely in training 25 years ago.

Perspectives on pharmaceutical companies - Some schools have restricted guidelines when it comes to student exposure to pharmaceutical companies. This may be contributing to their opinion of pharmaceutical sales representatives; with 90 percent viewing information from them as not credible. The survey also reveals that attending physicians are the strongest influence in students' opinion of pharmaceutical representatives.

More than 40 percent of the nation's students use Epocrates popular mobile medical reference, in training and beyond. The Future Physicians of America survey is the largest survey of medical students using Epocrates software, more than 90 percent of whom will be practicing physicians in less than two years. Respondents were opted-in to participate in market research surveys through the Epocrates Honors® Panel.

Editor's note: Contact pr@epocrates.com for comprehensive survey results.

ABOUT EPOCRATES, INC.

Epocrates is a leading provider of clinical information and decision support tools to healthcare professionals. Epocrates currently has more than one in three U.S. physicians and 40 percent of U.S. medical students in its active network. The company's subscription-based services enable healthcare professionals to make more informed medical decisions, reduce medical errors and practice more efficiently. For more information about Epocrates, please visit www.epocrates.com/company.