Computers still the tool of choice for EHR access

Personal computers remain the tool of choice for electronic health record users, despite the rise in tablets and smartphones, according to the latest report from Epocrates, an athenahealth company.

The company's third annual mobile trends report surveyed 1,257 healthcare providers, including physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants from its market research panel in May. It found that 41 percent of clinicians were "digital omnivores," using computers, tablets and smartphones to access their EHRs. However, that's a "far cry" from the 82 percent of digital omnivores predicted last year and down from 47 percent of self-reported omnivores in 2013.

"Necessary IT upgrades, software training, and workflow modifications throughout a practice may also divert clinicians' time and attention away from other resources, and undermine their appetite to integrate yet another gadget into their daily routine," the report's authors said.

However, this stall may just be a plateau for mobile devices.

"[W]e may be witnessing the temporary effects of technological upheaval due to healthcare reform initiatives," the report's authors noted, adding that 74 percent of those surveyed said they expected to be omnivores by the second quarter of 2015. Moreover, only one-third of respondents said that their EHR was "optimized" for tablet and smartphone use, which would impact usability.

"In this era of easy access to and widespread proficiency with computers, smartphones, and tablets, the conversation must move beyond hardware and into the data and design that can be delivered to any healthcare provider's preferred screen," the report's authors said. "The outlook is favorable, and timing is everything."

Mobile technologies, with their convenience, ease of use and popularity, will continue to change the landscape of EHRs and health IT. However, other studies have mirrored Epocrates' finding that lack of resources, focus on other issues, and inadequate training hinder clinicians' use of mobile devices in patient care.

To learn more:  
- read the report (.pdf)