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Physicians Like Digital Tech, But Adoption Is Slow

Many doctors say they want technology tools for medical education and training. But actions speak louder than words.

10 Top Medical Practice Management Software Systems
10 Top Medical Practice Management Software Systems
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Many doctors say they want to spend more time engaging in online activities. But that doesn't reflect their actions in the real world. According to a survey that measured physicians' digital behavior, 84% of doctors would prefer to attend events such as continuing medical education (CME) training online. But only 6.4% say that they actually participate in virtual events very often, and only 18.5% participate in them often.

The Joint Survey of Physician Digital Behavior, conducted by San Francisco-based ON24 and Boston-based MedData Group, queried 971 physicians about their online behavior and use of technology such as the iPad. Among the major findings: 75.5% of the respondents realized that virtual events and webcasts are increasing in number, while 91% asserted that they see benefits to being able to attend more conferences, meetings, and CME events virtually. In addition, 35% of the respondents said that embracing virtual events leads to better overall patient care.

An overwhelming 80% of the respondents said that ability to view on-demand content at their convenience was one of the benefits of attending conferences and meetings virtually. More than half (53%) also agreed that engaging in more virtual events would help to avoid the hassles of travel. An overwhelming 63% of respondents said that early evening is the most convenient time of the day to attend a live virtual event or webcast.

[ Which medical apps are doctors and patients turning to? See 9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look. ]

As for computing devices, 45% of respondents currently own an iPad, 52.4% are iPhone users, 10.1% use a non-iPad tablet, and 25% use a non-iPhone smartphone. When asked which devices they planned to purchase in the next six months, 29.2% of respondents cited an iPad, 17% an iPhone, 4% a non-iPad tablet, and 5.9% a non-iPhone smartphone.

When asked about characteristics that make an appealing virtual event presenter, 61.8% of the physician respondents responded "a clear voice that is not nasal-sounding" while 52.9% want a presenter who is "open to questions and different viewpoints."

Despite the gap between interest in and adoption of digital technology, some medical professionals assert that virtual events, as well as use of smartphones and tablet PCs, are becoming unavoidable. Dr. Brian Schwartz, a cardiologist with Wellesley Primary Care Medicine in Wellesley, Massachusetts, told InformationWeek Healthcare, "Some of the technology is becoming increasingly mandated, such as the use of electronic records and electronic billing. The way you have to run your practice now is electronic."

Schwartz continued, "Physicians are realizing the positive spinoff from technology, such as the ability to do online education [and] communicate with patients electronically, and they are starting to embrace that as a tool."

Pat Wise, vice president for health care information systems at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), said a recent HIMSS study revealed that 79% of clinicians are very interested in mobile technology, and 89% of doctors are using mobile communication devices such as smart phones and iPads.

"When technology fits into the workflow of physicians, they clearly are early adopters," Wise told InformationWeek Health Care. But that wasn't always the case. Wise pointed out that just a few years ago technology wasn't user-friendly and didn't fit into a physician's workflow, so the medical community tended to be slow adopters. "Now it fits into their day, [and] that's why the adoption rate is growing. Podcasts are popular because a doctor can download them during the day and listen to them when they drive home or while they are exercising," Wise said.

Bill Reinstein, president and CEO of MedData Group, told InformationWeek Health Care, "The adoption rate is still relatively low among physicians for these types of digital events. Yet for those who have seen the benefits from these events, there is a special opportunity gap that is bringing the rest of the community into the fold." Reinstein explained that the gap exists between physicians who say they participate in virtual events very often and physicians who clearly want more virtual events. "There's a big opportunity here, where there's a big demand for something and a large number of doctors who will likely soon be coming into the fold."

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

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