Smartphone use growing among family docs

More family physicians (67 percent) are using smartphones these days, compared to 55 percent at the same time in 2011, according to a Canadian survey by Ontario-based research firm Prism Healthcare Intelligence.

Prism's data, posted on the blog of Toronto-based digital health marketing agency Klick Health, shows that family physicians are doing some interesting clinical tasks on their smartphones, including looking up drug references (58 percent), accessing clinical decision-support (50 percent), taking notes and memos (43 percent), digging into textbook references (38 percent), consulting with medical peers (28 percent), and performing scheduling tasks (17 percent).

Interestingly, the most cutting edge mobile functionality continues to elude family doctors, with only 8 percent of surveyed doctors e-prescribing, 6 percent monitoring patients, another 6 percent accessing electronic medical records, and 4 percent ordering lab tests or accessing results.

Family docs are doing more on the non-clinical side, the survey shows, including sending/receiving text messages (72 percent) and emails (69 percent), using calendar and reminder functions (66 percent), browsing the web (62 percent), using apps (61 percent, although the study doesn't specify if they're health-related), and taking photos (48 percent), according to the blog post.

Apple continues to dominate the market--even with family physicians--with 58 percent owning iPhones, 24 percent using BlackBerrys, 10 percent opting for Android.

One factor that could bump up family physicians' use of smartphones altogether is Canada's house calls program, according to an interesting post in the Canadian Family Physician journal in March. Family doctor Sandy Buchman points out that video-conferencing technology, remote monitoring systems and other mobile tech could well boost the ability of family doctors to make house calls and improve homebound patients' access to care.

Overall, though, it leaves open the burning question in healthcare: Will mobile apps interfere with, or take over for, many basic, low-level clinical tasks in healthcare over time?

To learn more:
- read the Klick Health blog post
- check out the Canadian Family Physician Journal's post