Study found 62% of physicians own tablet computers, and they are finding creative ways to integrate them into patient interactions and other aspects of medicine.
When a patient enters an exam room at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Downtown Health Plaza, a general internal medicine outpatient clinic in Winston-Salem, NC, the visit starts out the usual way. A nurse takes the patient’s vitals, reviews the medical record and says the doctor will be in shortly. What happens next was not typical even two years ago and shows the impact that tablet computers have had on practice life in a very short time.
Before the nurse leaves the exam room, she hands the patient an Apple iPad and queues up one of more than 30 video modules, a choice made based on the patient’s condition or health concerns. The patient then passes the time between the nurse’s visit and the doctor’s arrival watching an educational video. James Wofford, MD, an internist and clinic chief at the Downtown Health Plaza, said the introduction of the iPad helps in teaching a poorer, less-educated patient population about health during what otherwise might be wasted time.
Physician adoption of tablet computers has grown rapidly, according to Manhattan Research’s “Taking the Pulse U.S. 2012” survey of 3,015 physicians in 25 specialties. The survey, conducted in the first three months of 2012, found that 62% of physicians owned a tablet computer, up from 27% in 2011, the first full year after the introduction of the iPad set off the newest wave of tablets. Of the 62% who own tablets, half use them at the point of care. By comparison, most surveys put electronic health record use by physicians at around 50%, and that has required federal incentive programs to help get adoption to that mark.
“I believe docs with an iPad ran to the iPad,” said Lewis Hofmann, MD, a family physician in a two-doctor, hospital-owned practice in the Washington area. “Most docs on an EHR right now were probably dragged to it. No one had to pay me to buy my iPad.”
It helps that tablet computers, compared with EHRs, are inherently mobile and inexpensive. A tablet computer usually doesn’t cost more than $800 at the high end, while an EHR could run in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the model. Doctors also can adapt tablets to their use, unlike EHRs, which tend to force physicians to change the way they work. Physicians are among the many app developers, including the American Medical Association, offering products that make tablets more practical for work.
Monique Levy, vice president of research at Manhattan, said the findings on tablet adoption and use show that “we can finally put to rest this whole idea that physicians are Luddites. When it makes sense, it’s usable, and it gives them something, they’re going to do it quickly.”
Not Just Bigger Smartphones
Frances Dare, senior executive with Accenture Health, a consulting and research firm, said physicians quickly realized that tablets are “so much more than a smaller version of the computer.” Because tablets are portable, multifaceted communication devices, combined with a camera, bar-code reader, video player, research tool and apps for just about anything, physicians value their convenience.
They also find that tablets are more than just oversized smartphones. They see so many benefits that they now engage with patients and one another in ways that didn’t exist before, Dare said.
Eric Goldberg, MD, an internist with the Murray Hill Medical Group in New York, said it is technically possible to do some things he now does on his tablet with a smartphone, but it isn’t practical due to the limited screen size. With his tablet, he can gain remote access to his EHR and view or enter patient data at the point of care, eliminating the scrap pieces of paper he used to collect in his pockets with information he later entered into the EHR on a computer.
Having that remote access has been especially helpful when he is on call. He can make more informed decisions by having a patient’s information at his fingertips.
Source: American Medical News, June 4, 2012.
3 Trends in Physician Online Activity
Manhattan Research’s “Taking the Pulse U.S. 2012” survey of 3,015 physicians in 25 specialties didn’t ask only about tablet computing use. Among other conclusions:
- Physicians with three screens (tablets, smartphones and desktops/laptops) spend more time online on each device and go online more often during the workday than physicians with one or two screens.
- Adoption of physician-only social networks remained flat from 2011 to 2012. Physicians reach out more frequently to and are more influenced by colleagues they formed relationships with at school or at work than peers they first connected with online.
- More than two-thirds of physicians use video to learn and keep up-to-date with clinical information.
Source: “Taking the Pulse U.S. 2012,” Manhattan Research