Health Professionals Turn to Mobile Devices for Patient Care

The survey found two-thirds of doctors use a mobile device to access medical information in a professional setting more than 10 times a day.

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Nearly three in four family physicians (73 percent) consider themselves tech-savvy, according to a Merck Manuals survey of 220 respondents.

In fact, two in three doctors (66 percent) said they use a mobile device to access medical information in a professional setting more than 10 times a day.

While the vast majority of respondents (81 percent) agreed that the availability of medical information on mobile devices has changed the dynamic of office visits, responses for how the dynamic has changed varied, the survey found.

About one-third (34 percent) of physicians said patients arrive more informed and prepared, yet 33 percent said patients arrive misinformed, and more than a one-fourth (29 percent) of physicians indicated that appointments are more efficient as a result of mobile medical information.

The survey also found more than half (56 percent) of physicians said doctors and patients are more likely to review medical information together, thanks to the availability of medical information on mobile devices.

Family physicians identified a number of reasons for consulting their mobile devices in the office. Of those who use a mobile device to access medical information in a professional setting, 80 percent said they use the information to inform their diagnoses or treatment plans for patients, the Merck Manuals survey found.

In addition, 66 percent said they use their devices to catch up on the latest news in the medical community, 60 percent use it to explain and further illustrate information to patients and 28 percent use it to send information directly to patients.

The report noted, however, that mobile technology is not meant to replace the patient/doctor relationship but, instead, enhance the office visit by allowing them to review information together.

Although the survey did not address the infrastructure needs of doctors and patients, a recent study by Spok, a communications provider for health care, and other industries, pointed to a large gap in the infrastructure necessary to support these strategies and devices, including wireless network coverage and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions.

The survey also showed that more hospitals are hiring outside experts to help with clinical mobility, from planning through technology implementations and rollout.

The Spok survey found that the diversity of mobile devices is increasing as new types of devices (such as wearables) are added to the mix and existing tools remain firmly entrenched in clinicians' workflows.

More than half (54 percent) of respondents to the Spok survey said that WiFi coverage is a current challenge for mobile device users, and 47 percent cited cellular coverage challenges, a gap that will be critical for hospitals to address in an effort to mitigate security risks and enhance communications.