Smartphone boom changes physicians' relationship with technology

Smartphones clearly have changed the dynamic of physicians' relationship with technology, and that's creating a bit of a conundrum for hospital IT departments.

"Five to 10 years ago they were saying, 'If only my docs would be using computers,'" mHealth Initiative Vice President C. Peter Waegemann tells American Medical News. Now, so many physicians have smartphones that those on the hospital side are trying to figure out how to integrate the devices into their existing IT infrastructure that's largely based on desktop technology.

"In 2010, the conversation has shifted away from whether physicians are online to understanding the degree to which digital content is changing the way physicians practice medicine," Meredith Ressi, vice president of research at Manhattan Research, is quoted as saying. "Professional use of smartphones and online user-generated content are no longer early-adopter activities of a tech-savvy few--these types of activities are the norm for the majority of physicians today."

Physicians first embraced smartphones and their forebears--personal digital assistants--as personal tools to help manage busy schedules and store phone numbers. But doctors quickly found out how handy these mobile computing devices could be for their professional lives.

"Doctors have indeed found a tool that naturally fits with their lifestyles and workflow needs, and the future is going to need to include mobile integration with [EMRs] and other clinical applications," says Brian Ahier, "health IT evangelist" for Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, Ore., and a health IT blogger.

What they haven't often found are a lot of hospitals willing to put their smartphones on the network. In a recent survey by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, only 18 of 52 hospital CIOs who responded allow EMR access via smartphone. Anecdotally, those that do let doctors access the EMR on their handhelds tend to buy one brand of smartphone for the entire organization.

To learn more:
- take a look at this AMNews story