What’s Next For Physician Tablet Use?

Posted on July 23, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Not long ago, Manhattan Research released a study offering details on how doctors’ consumption of digital devices and media is progressing.  The survey, which surveyed 3,015 physicians in 25 specialties, looked at doctors who were online in the first quarter of 2012.

Among the most interesting — if not surprising — findings was that tablets have more or less officially hit the medical mainstream. According to the research firm, tablet use among doctors has nearly doubled since last year, hitting a whopping 62 percent in this year’s study.  You also won’t be shocked to learn that iPads dominate medical tablet use, in part due to their high-res screen and ease of  use.

Why the greater rush to adoption?  I think the following comment, which Monique Levy of Manhattan Research made to InformationWeek, offers a nice insight:   “It used to be that you had to solve the problems of security access, validation, and data security first and then adopt,  (but) what’s happened is that the system has turned upside down. We’re now at adoption first and solve the problem later.”

As Levy notes, the first wave of adoption has been driven largely by access to lower-risk information, and less for patient data. We can expect to another round of resistance when physicians are tethered to EMRs largely by tablets, she predicts.  I’d add that as long as there’s no native client physicians can use to access EMRs on the iPad, it will make things worse.

Given that resistance, maybe medical use of tablets will expand in other areas first. According to IT prognosticators and researchers at the Gartner Group, top medical uses of tablets also include waiting rooms, e-prescribing, diagnostic image viewing and appointment scheduling. (I’m amazed more practices aren’t doing the waiting room check-in thing.) Maybe one of these other areas will evolve breakout apps before doctors are really hooked up with patient data on their tablet.