Doctors Going Mobile, But Still Skeptical of Connected Health

4/8/14Follow @gthuang

At least two-thirds of American doctors surveyed use mobile-health apps on the job. But about two-thirds also think a truly connected healthcare system in the U.S. is more than five years away—or won’t happen at all.

That’s according to a new report by MedData Group, a healthcare marketing firm based in Topsfield, MA. The report surveyed 532 doctors around the U.S., across specialties and practice sizes, between December and March.

As health IT booms with startups, investors, and tech giants getting into the game, the MedData findings provide a snapshot of which mobile technologies physicians are using—and what they want to be using.

That information could be useful for companies trying to develop software for healthcare providers or consumers, and for observers wondering how the personal health and clinical technology landscape will evolve over the next few years.

First, the respondents’ current mobile usage:

Mobile health apps used by U.S. doctors(image: MedData Group)

Nearly half of the doctors surveyed say they use mobile apps to look at medication interactions; presumably they are using the technology to help make drug-prescription decisions. The next-highest type of app cited is for diagnosis. Interestingly, less than 20 percent of those surveyed are currently using apps to access electronic health records.

The picture changes quite a bit when you look at what doctors say they are considering using in the next year:

Mobile health apps doctors might use in next year (image: MedData Group)

Leading the way are apps that enable mobile access to electronic medical records, followed by apps for secure texting, point-of-care information on drugs, devices, or diagnoses, and patient portals. Also on doctors’ radar: mobile health monitoring and virtual clinic visits via mobile devices—both emerging areas for startups these days.

The doctors reported time and cost efficiency as their top reasons for adopting mobile-health technologies. But they remain largely skeptical that a connected healthcare system will become a reality any time soon; 57 percent of respondents say it will take longer than five years, and an additional 9 percent say it will never happen.

In this survey, “connected healthcare” means things like interoperable electronic health records, remote health monitoring, patient-communication portals, and clinical telepresence using video technology.

The respondents cited a number of reasons for their skepticism:

Challenges to connected healthcare (image: MedData Group)

More than 70 percent of the doctors mentioned cost as a challenge for connected health systems. Technology problems, clinicians’ resistance to change, and privacy concerns also scored high on the list.

The bottom line: many doctors seem to be using the latest mobile technologies. Now companies, government, and healthcare organizations need to make this trend pay off for the benefit of all.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.wirelesslifesciences.org/ Rob McCray

    Interesting that 2/3rds of physicians believe the combination cost and provider resistance will delay the adoption of technologies already embraced by the rest of society and other industries. It would be easier if the profession would lead the necessary changes but health care will nonetheless become connected. The 1/3rd of doctors who embrace change will achieve their full potential to improve the lives of their patients.

  • f4crewchick

    IMHO-The resistance by physicians to embrace new technologies is based in the rigid, hierarchical nature of medical education.