MAY 15, 2013

It looks like the mobile health technology revolution has a ways to go.

613-physician survey from consulting firm Deloitte found that 57% of physicians do not use mobile technology for clinical purposes, such as accessing electronic health records (EHRs), e-prescribing, or communicating with patients.

What’s more, among those doctors who don’t use mobile devices for clinical purposes, 78% say they don’t even intend to do so in the near future.

Those numbers are a little surprising, given a recent survey from Manhattan Research that found that 72% of physicians have adopted tablet computers, primarily the iPad. Further, that same 2,950-physician survey found that 70% of physicians use medical reference app Epocrates on their smartphones, and 50% use the app on their tablets.

Separately, a March study from Kantar Media bound that 74% of physicians use smartphones for professional reasons, and 38% use both a smartphone and tablet for professional purposes.

So what’s a health information technology observer to make of these apparent discrepancies? (Admittedly, the surveys are from different sources and ask different questions to different groups of respondents.)

“I wouldn’t get fixated on differences in the numbers” among separate surveys, says Harry Greenspun, MD, senior adviser at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Greenspun adds that Deloitte is “very careful” in how it constructs its survey and endeavors to obtain a representative sample of U.S. physicians with the proper balance between specialists versus primary care, large versus small practice, and the like.

Instead, focus more broadly on trends that these types of surveys show, Greenspun advises. One key technology trend Deloitte’s data reveals is the “digital divide” between doctors who are enthusiastic and early technology adopters and those who aren’t.

As technology-adopting physicians’ capabilities grow while those of their technophobic counterparts do not, that divide is going to become more apparent to consumers, Greenspun predicts. Asked about the data point that showed 78% of nonadopters don’t plan to change soon, Greenspun half-jokingly referred to doctors in that camp as clinging to a “not now, not ever, not any way” mentality toward integrating technology into their practices.

Ultimately, it may be patients clamoring for more technology options from their physicians—such as access to medical records from smartphones—that pushes previously reluctant doctors to embrace technology.

“There’s still a good chunk of doctors who are hoping that this whole thing just goes away,” Greenspun says. “There’ll be a real push to bring them back into the fold, and a lot of that will be driven by consumer demand.”


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