CHCF: Smartphone growth heralds new phase of health IT adoption

The economy may have stumbled for the past couple of years, but the market for smartphones did not. Consumer ownership of smartphones soared from 15 percent in October 2006 to 42 percent in December 2009, according to ChangeWave Research. And some two-thirds of physicians were using smartphones in 2009, despite the fact that only 6 percent had fully functional EMR systems.

Such numbers suggest great potential for smartphones to transform healthcare, says a new report from the California HealthCare Foundation.

"Unlike any other HIT platform, the smartphone is basically an inexpensive handheld computer that enables users to accomplish tasks anywhere, anytime. It is so intuitive and user-friendly that most people can download and use the many available applications--or apps--without any training or special knowledge about computers," the report reads. Apps, of course, have popped up by the thousands; there were more than 5,800 health and medical apps for the iPhone alone as of February, and more than a quarter were intended for health professionals.

"The first generation of smartphone apps has yielded value for consumers and clinicians who have adopted them because they are agile, easy-to-use, hand-held and mobile," the report concludes. "These features have not been the traditional hallmarks of health IT. They empower providers and patients on the go. The relatively speedy disruption that apps have had on health providers and consumers is just the beginning of a 'small is beautiful' phase of healthcare information technology and delivery."

To read more:
- download the CHCF report (.pdf)