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Are Physicians Making the Most of Mobile Devices?


Surveys indicate that many physicians are lagging when it comes to fully utilizing mobile devices in patient care, but experts say that may change - soon.

As smartphones and tablets become more accessible to consumers, and as their capabilities expand, nearly every industry is incorporating mobile technology into their business models. Banks, for instance, are creating apps to help customers monitor their finances from mobile devices, retailers are rushing to make their websites "mobile-friendly," and schools are budgeting to add tablets to classrooms.

Healthcare should be no exception, but surveys indicate that many practices and physicians are lagging when it comes to fully utilizing mobile devices in patient care. While most physicians are using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, at work, according to our 2014 Technology Survey, Sponsored by Kareo, few are using them to assist with direct patient care. For instance, the majority said they use their mobile devices to look up drug information, read journal articles, and access CME opportunities, but only 10 percent said they are using them to remotely monitor patients' health information, such as their vital signs.

Still, family physician Linda Girgis, who is on the advisory board for physician social networking site SERMO, predicts that physician use of mobile devices in patient care will pick up traction. More and more physicians on SERMO, Girgis says, are beginning to participate in discussions about mHealth, ask questions, and share ideas. "We're talking about it more and it's something that more are going to be incorporating into their practice," she says.

For 10 tips SERMO physicians have shared regarding how other physicians can incorporate mHealth into their practices, visit bit.ly/mhealth-tips.

Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, agrees that use of mobile devices in patient care is gaining momentum. One reason is that the administration of healthcare through a mobile device does not cost a lot of money for patients and physicians, as mobile devices are something that most are already using anyway. "A mobile device is not necessarily a healthcare device, it can be anything that people use for communicating, and then it can also be used for healthcare, and that's why it's been very useful," says Linkous. "You're not always having to invent new technology, or always having to invent new ways of connecting people, you're just adding on to technology that's already been deployed."

Another factor leading to mHealth popularity is that more patients are expressing interest in it, says Linkous. You may already be experiencing this in your practice. "... I think they're coming to the doctor and asking them, 'I have a heart condition,' 'I have high blood pressure,' 'I have -whatever else it might be - are there any applications on the cell phone I can use?' And so now the doctors are being asked questions by their patients about what applications can I download, or what types of devices can I use to help me take better care of myself."

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