U.S. doctors are ahead of European doctors in smartphone usage, according to a new report by EPG Health Media, a research firm and educational publisher.
In 2012, 91 percent of doctors in the United States owned smartphones, compared with 81 percent in Europe, the study reported. U.S. smartphone use by doctors also grew from 81 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2012 in the U.S. and from 44 percent in 2010 to 81 percent in 2012 in Europe, the study reported.
EPG performed its research for the study "Health Care Professional Use of Mobile Devices" between August 2010 and October 2012 and announced the results Dec. 17. EPG Health Media polled doctors in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. EPG interviewed 360 health care professionals and asked 32 questions.
U.S. doctors have benefited from the speed and ease of smartphone support, compared with doctors in Europe, according to Michelle Kelly, marketing director at EPG.
"Because they are better supported, doctors in the U.S. have so far had a better experience with their smartphones, and are therefore more enthusiastic users of them than doctors in Europe," Kelly told eWEEK in an email.
"International cooperation is necessary for the creation, convergence and exchange of technology, services and resources, and this requires more investment and more time than perhaps it does in the U.S.," she added.
Despite the difference in adoption rates between U.S. and European doctors, smartphone use is still widespread in Europe, according to a study that appeared Oct. 30 in the journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. The study found that 79 percent of medical students and 74.8 percent of junior doctors owned a smartphone.
The mobile health market will reach $8 billion by 2018, according to a recent report by Global Data. In addition, users downloaded 44 million mobile health apps in 2012, Juniper Research reported.
With 83 percent of U.S. doctors who lack a smartphone planning to buy one within six months, smartphone penetration among U.S. physicians could reach roughly 100 percent, according to EPG Health Media.
"We hope that this latest study will support organizations involved in funding, developing and providing mobile accessed resources for HCPs [health care professionals]," Dr. Chris Cooper, managing director at EPG, said in a statement. "While much already exists, it would seem that issues of demand, access and credibility are not being addressed effectively or meeting their potential to support doctors and ultimately their patients."
Despite a larger percentage of doctors owning smartphones in the U.S., more doctors in the European Union are using the devices to communicate with patients.
Of the respondents interviewed, 74 percent of doctors in the European Union communicated with patients on their smartphones, compared with 65 percent of physician respondents in the United States.
Although companies are developing mobile apps such as Zipit Confirm that allow doctors to message securely on mobile devices, the number of doctors in Europe who say the phones help them communicate with patients has dropped. Only 23 percent of EU respondents said the smartphones aided communication with patients in 2012, compared with 42 percent in 2010.
In the United States, the number of doctors using their phones for e-prescribing fell and the amount increased in the European Union. The number of e-prescribing doctors increased from 28 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2012 in the European Union and decreased in the United States from 62 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2012.
In addition, the number of doctors who believe the smartphones help them deliver more effective care dropped from 70 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2012 in the European Union.
Although smartphone adoption has increased overall, the way the devices are being applied "has not progressed meaningfully in the same time frame," according to EPG.
Doctors are using their smartphones to access drug information, connect with social media sites and manage their email, EPG reported.