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Physicians Find All-In-One Learning Tool, Management Platform Online

Internet touches 360-degrees of physicians’ practice

January 16, 2013

The internet has become an integral part of clinical practice, allowing physicians to stay up to date on healthcare treatments, medications and payer guidelines. And that will only continue as regulatory and competitive pressures, along with demographic shifts, drive increased use, according to a new eMarketer report, “Physicians and the Internet: Where They Go and What They Do Online.”

Time Spent Online by US Physicians, by Category, Q1 2012 (% of total)

For information, news, tools and, increasingly, patient health records, a considerable 81% of US physicians went to sites targeted to healthcare professionals in Q1 2012, according to a study by comScore.

Many factors are driving more and more physicians online, including the need for immediacy in an arena in which information changes fast. Greater patient online research is also causing more doctors to look online for answers—or to dispel myths. Additionally, electronic health records (EHRs) are spurring online use. Finally, physicians are spending less time with pharma reps, and instead going to the internet to learn about medications.

Participation in Online Promotional Programs* with Pharma Companies According to US Physicians, Q2 2012 (% of respondents)

Where are physicians spending their time once they go online?

comScore reported that the most time spent online by US physicians was for so-called HCP content (34%). (HCP content is a broad term for information tailored for physicians [i.e., “health care providers”]. A typical HCP-content website would be Medscape.) Pharma support sites were the next most commonly used in terms of time spent (14%).

Leading Online Health Categories Among US Physicians, Ranked by Reach, Q1 2012

It’s worth noting that the two categories with the least reach, “pharmacy services” and “electronic medical records,” tended to get heavy use by the physicians who did access them, and the number of minutes spent per physician was quite high. While EHRs showed limited reach, this is presumably because they are being used locally for now, in-office, rather than accessed via the internet.

Social media is also gaining a foothold among physicians. According to a study published in September 2012 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, as of March 2011, 58% of US physicians said they believed that using social media improved patient care.

While social media is not going to replace traditional sources of healthcare information, there is a clear demand for social platforms that allow physicians to share and discuss professional issues. However, for professional purposes, physicians prefer restricted communities to open consumer platforms.

The full report, “Physicians and the Internet: Where They Go and What They Do Online,” also answers these key questions:

  • What is driving physicians online for medical information?
  • Where are physicians going for medical information online?
  • Are physicians using online video for professional purposes?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.

Check out today’s other articles, “Online News Viewing Cuts into Cable Viewership ” and “For TV Watchers in Finland, Tradition Reigns.”


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