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Mobile Health Adoption Growing Among Doctors, for Apps and Content

Xconomy Boston — 

More than 80 percent of U.S. doctors surveyed use mobile apps or view professional content on mobile devices for work. That’s a significant increase over the numbers from around a year ago, according to a new survey.

The main reasons for adoption? Improved patient care and communication, and time efficiency, doctors say. The survey was conducted by MedData Group, a healthcare marketing company in Topsfield, MA, and involved polling 375 physicians around the country this month.

The findings reflect a general sense that health IT services are picking up steam among doctors, patients, and corporations—and that is driving increased interest from investors as well. In fact, 2014 was a record year with $6.5 billion invested in digital health companies, an increase of 125 percent over the previous year, according to StartUp Health Insights.

Healthcare is a notoriously slow-moving industry, but the MedData report suggests doctors themselves are driving big changes. The chart below shows only 16 percent of physicians surveyed say they have not adopted mobile health. That’s down from about 33 percent in a similar survey a year ago. (It’s not a perfect comparison, because the pool of doctors has changed and the exact wording of the questions may differ.)

Doctors' adoption of mobile health (Image: MedData Group)

Another difference from a year ago is an increased focus on quality and continuity of patient care, rather than cost efficiency.

The new survey tried to dig into what kinds of content and apps doctors access on mobile devices. The chart below shows that clinical articles and drug information top the list of mobile content. Still, 21 percent of doctors said they don’t read professional content on mobile.

What doctors read on mobile devices (image: MedData Group)

Last year, the big trend in what doctors were looking for was mobile access to electronic health records. And the most popular apps had to do with medication interactions. This year it’s different: doctors predict that the most popular type of medical app in 2015 will be for electronic prescriptions—whereby the information can be entered into a mobile device and delivered electronically to a pharmacy. (That’s followed closely by apps for lab or imaging test results, and drug interactions.)

Doctors predict mobile health apps (image: MedData Group)

What the new survey doesn’t address is the skepticism a lot of doctors have about adopting broader “connected health” systems that include things like interoperable medical records, health monitoring, patient-communication portals, and telepresence technologies. But the mobile component of such systems, at least, seems to be on its way to broad acceptance.