Mobile 'super-user' docs utilize smartphones, tablets for research, diagnosis

A surprising 25 percent of physicians are using both smartphones and tablets in their practices, according to a recent survey by physician training site Quantia Communications. They're using them primarily to research new drugs (73 percent), treatments (50 percent) and clinical research (50 percent), as well as for diagnosing patients (44 percent).

Most interesting: "Super mobile" physicians, or those who have both a smartphone and tablet, use them more frequently than physicians who own just one device, the study shows. For example, 50 percent of super-mobile physicians use their devices to research new treatments, but only 39 percent of physicians who own just a smartphone do the same.

Physicians overall are adopting mobile technology at an exponential rate, according to Quantia's data. More than 80 percent of the survey's respondents say they own a mobile device, compared to only 50 percent of the general U.S. population, according to the Nielsen Company's "2011 Mobile Connected Device Report." Forty-four percent of those who don't currently own a mobile device say they plan to buy one this year.

The data debunks part of the myth of older physicians not being as mobile-savvy. It appears true that veteran physicians (30-plus years) are less likely to use mobile technology overall; their use rates are 27 points lower than physicians in their first few years of practice. When it comes to tablets, however, 20 percent of that same group of physicians already use them, and another 25 percent say they're "extremely likely" to use them in the near future. Physicians with 20-plus years of experience--not rookie MDs--are actually the most frequent users of tablets, the study shows. Researchers posit that the cost of tablets may be the deciding factor, as younger physicians typically earn less than more experienced MDs.

Hospitals, one of the slower adopters in recent years, are getting on board, as well. About 18 percent of respondents say their hospital supplied their mobile device.

Despite all this mobile enthusiasm, however, core obstacles to mobile adoption remain, physicians indicate. The big problems are still security/patient privacy (54 percent), concerns about physicians' liability if they provide care via a mobile device (45 percent) and reimbursement, or how physicians can get paid for mobile-enabled care (35 percent).

Not a surprise, but interesting data nonetheless, is Apple's continued domination of the mobile health space, at least for physicians. More than 60 percent of smartphone users have iPhones, and virtually all the tablet users had iPads, according to the study.

The study was conducted online in May among nearly 3,800 physician members of QuantiaMD's service.

To learn more:
- read QuantiaMD's report (.pdf)