Doctors Slow To Embrace Telemedicine, Cloud Computing - InformationWeek

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11/21/2011
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Doctors Slow To Embrace Telemedicine, Cloud Computing

Tablets, smartphone, and mobile EHRs gain ground in healthcare, but cloud computing and videoconferencing lag, finds CompTIA study.

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One out of four healthcare providers are now using tablets in their practice, with another 21% expecting to do so in the next 12 months, and more than half are using a smartphone at work.

These findings are part of CompTIA's 3rd Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities Study, which relied on separate online surveys with 350 doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers or administrators and 400 IT firms with healthcare IT practices. CompTIA conducted the interviews in late July and early August.

While adoption rates for tablets are increasing at a fast clip, IT teams continue to face challenges integrating these devices into the healthcare enterprise. The most pressing tablet challenges center around security, integrating workflow, and optimizing legacy applications to run on the devices.

The poll showed that 38% of healthcare providers that use a mobile device run medical-related apps on a daily basis. Over the next year, that number will grow to 50%, according to projections.

[ Get some practical advice on coping with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the medical office. See How Secure Are Your Clinicians' Mobile Devices? ]

"The research suggests that much of the current use of mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) is in the area of basic office tasks, such as maintaining schedules, appointments, interacting with nurses, and so forth. Healthcare providers are just beginning to use tablets and smartphones to access patient records, so many are still working through their understanding of security and privacy issues," Tim Herbert, CompTIA's VP of research, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

"Some healthcare providers, especially the smaller practices, are likely not fully aware of all the various security vulnerabilities associated with mobile devices such as unencrypted data, mobile malware, transmitting data via an open Wi-Fi hotspot, and the need for remote data wiping capabilities."

When questioned about electronic health records (EHRs), almost one-third of providers responding to the survey said they currently use their smartphones or tablets to access EHRs, with an additional 20% expecting to tap into EHRs with these mobile devices within the next year.

On the other hand, the survey found that cloud computing and telemedicine lag behind other technologies. Only 5% said they use cloud computing technology, but the study cautioned that the numbers are skewed because some healthcare providers probably use cloud-based applications, like software as a service, but don't think of it as cloud computing.

"Generally, the healthcare industry has been slow to embrace cloud computing. This is especially true among the smaller medical practices, which comprise the vast majority of physician offices in the U.S.," Herbert said.

"Like other enterprises, hospitals have substantial investments in infrastructure and sometimes proprietary systems. Moving or integrating these systems into a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service environment may pose significant challenges." Herbert said. "Some hospitals may serve as a hub with various physicians, specialists, labs, pharmacists, and others connected to it. Consequently, there may be interoperability and interconnectivity requirements for any move to the cloud--not an impossible hurdle to overcome, but another factor that could slow the transition to the cloud for some healthcare practices."

On the telemedicine front, the survey revealed that 14% of healthcare professionals actively follow news and trends in telemedicine, while 37% express little interest in the topic. According to the survey, providers believe telemedicine offers several benefits in the areas of continuing medical education (cited by 61%), specialist referral services (44%), and patient consultations (37%). Nevertheless, only one in 10 survey respondents said they intend to use videoconferencing for patient interaction within the next 12 months.

The new InformationWeek Healthcare supplement on EHR Best Practices explains how the most astute healthcare providers are putting those billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds to productive use. Download the supplement now. (Free registration required.)

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