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Younger Doctors Use Web-Enabled Devices For Professional Purposes

Apps offer new possibilities for how medicine is practiced

July 8, 2013 | Mobile | Healthcare & Pharma

The sheer number of digital tools now available to physicians has the potential to fundamentally change the practice of medicine in the US. The era of the house call may be long gone, but some of that one-on-one attention paid to patients can now be realized through tools such as email, social media and even mobile apps. Still, these tools also present complications related to issues of privacy and clear communication.

A survey of US physicians conducted by Kantar Media in January 2013 found that those complications might be resulting in a slow uptake of email among doctors. Email use was highest among doctors ages 35 to 44, at 30%, and its use among other age groups was not far behind. Given the ubiquity of email, there is plenty of room for growth in email communications between doctors and patients.

US Physicians Who Use Email to Communicate with Patients, by Age, Jan 2013 (% of respondents in each group)

Smartphones, meanwhile, have seen high rates of use among doctors, especially younger doctors. With apps that can help physicians in their practice, nearly nine in 10 respondents under 35 used their smartphones for professional purposes, the highest level among all age groups. Among this age group, almost three-quarters said they used an app as a diagnostic or clinical reference tool. While smartphone use declined with age, almost six in 10 of those aged 60 or older still used them for work-related reasons.

US Physicians Who Use Smartphones for Professional Purposes, by Age, Jan 2013 (% of respondents in each group)

The other half of the smart mobile device category—tablets—saw more than half of physician respondents ages 44 or younger using the devices for professional purposes. Growth in use was most pronounced among those ages 35 to 44, with the user rate growing to 54%. Among this age group, only 30% said they used apps on their tablet as a clinical reference or to aid in diagnosis.

US Physicians Who Use Tablets for Professional Purposes, by Age, Jan 2013 (% of respondents in each group)

eMarketer estimates that digital ad spending in the healthcare and pharma industries will reach $1.17 billion in 2013, and climb steadily to hit $1.45 billion by 2017.

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