A mini-revolution

An interesting phenomenon is occurring. Doctors are adopting smart phones at an exponential rate, even faster than the general public, a trend very surprising for a traditionally ‘technology averse’ group. A mini-revolution in the medical industry, and happening quickly it seems.

Why is this happening? One reason may be that these phones (like an iPhone or Blackberry) offer easy connectivity and computing ability and are being used to access the internet and social media sites. Traditionally, Doctors work from many different locations each characterized by high-stress inefficient paper-based workflow processes – manually filtering and prioritizing communications in each place mean that critical communications are easily missed.

Movin Meat emergency physician

MovinMeat is an ER physician (with an excellent blog http://allbleedingstops.blogspot.com/)

Potential solutions to managing an overwhelming information flow may help explain the fast adoption by doctors of this new technology, particularly of the iPhone whose reputation depends on ease of use. According to Spyglass Consulting over 90% of physicians were using smartphones to “communicate, manage personal/business workflows, and access information including medical reference materials” and showed a strong preference to the Apple iPhone (44%) to the RIM Blackberry. Here is adoption of the smart phone in general by comparison:

Share of 2010 Q2 smartphone sales to end users by operating system, according to Gartner. Source Wikipedia

Why have busy doctors taken time to embrace the iPhone? Here is perhaps a practical example of why – an iPhone application created by Peter Bentley, a researcher from University College London, that turns an iPhone into a stethoscope. Not only that, if patients have the same app, they can monitor their own heartbeat and send the results, by email (& by phone) to their doctor to analyse. According to the Guardian a free version of the app is being downloaded by more than 500 users a day.

“Experts say the software, a major advance in medical technology, has saved lives and enabled doctors in remote areas to access specialist expertise… Bentley’s iStethoscope application is not the only mobile phone programme lightening doctors’ bags and transforming their practices: there are nearly 6,000 applications related to health in the Apple App Store. The uptake has been rapid. In late 2009, two-thirds of doctors and 42% of the public were using smartphones – in effect inexpensive handheld computers – for personal and professional reasons. More than 80% of doctors said they expected to own a smartphone by 2012.”

Well.  That’s something to be sure.  It would be interesting to know if this technology takeover is happening in other health professions, and if for the same reasons.