asks, "Are therapists using smartphones?"

The smartphone. If its smooth and sleek appearance doesn’t entice you, its ‘brains’ surely will. No matter which one you choose – the Blackberry, the iPhone, the Palm – smartphones are smarter than ever. Not only do these cutting edge gadgets promise to keep you connected, but with the right applications, they can organize your schedule, manage your money, track your diet, navigate your route, and provide instant reviews of restaurants, movies, recipes, vacation spots, and more. These lifestyle applications are widely popular with smartphone users, but it’s the growing category of medical applications that has the healthcare community buzzing.
A recent report from Manhattan Research found that 64% of physicians are using smartphones. [1]. The statistic shouldn’t be all that surprising – a single gadget offering phone, email and web access would presumably increase productivity and save time, and what busy healthcare provider wouldn’t want that? What’s most interesting about physicians and their smartphones is the way the smartphone and its medical applications are being used in patient care.
In the article “Killer Smartphone Apps for On-the-Go Physicians” from HealthLeaders Media [2], Dr. Michelle Eads discusses her regular use of the popular medical app, “Epocrates.” This drug and disease reference application allows physicians like Eads to look up drug interactions and side effects; it can even inform the doctor whether or not the patient’s insurance will cover the drug and report how much their co-payment will be. Eads believes having the information at her finger tips helps prevent errors and increases her productivity.
With the number of medical applications steadily increasing, there is no doubt that these apps have the potential to change the way healthcare is delivered, but is it inevitable? As physicians increasingly adopt the use of smartphones and mobile medical apps, are other healthcare providers following the trend?
According to the Smartphone Survey, 32% of therapist respondents own or use a smartphone, and 24% of those therapists utilize mobile medical applications. Clinical resource apps and medical dictionary apps were cited most often in the survey, but respondents also reported using drug reference apps (like Epocrates), medical calculators, and apps for patient education and scheduling. A small number of respondents said they are using applications for electronic health records, medical coding, and CME.
The survey results suggest that therapists are finding value in medical apps, but they may not yet feel comfortable consulting their smartphones during patient visits. Only 10% of the therapists who own smartphones say they frequently consult the device during patient visits. Another 16% report that they occasionally consult their smartphones while with patients. But as more therapists adopt smartphones and discover new medical apps, these numbers are likely to increase.
Other interesting findings from the Smartphone Survey:
  • Among therapists who own smartphones, there are 30% more Blackberry users than iPhone users
  • 21% of therapists who own smartphones do not use the device to check email.
  • In addition to smartphones and regular cell phones, therapists are using the following gadgets:
    • 36% of respondents use a GPS system
    • 34% own an iPod or iPod Touch
    • 10% use a PDA
    • 7% use a page
  • The percentage of therapists who own or use smartphones (32%) closely mirrors the percentage of therapists who work in facilities or practices with electronic health records (34%). 
Thank you to those therapists who participated in our Smartphone Survey! Please send us your suggestions for future survey topics.
  1. Manhattan Research. “Physicians ‘Get Smart’ – Number of Docs Using Smartphones Surges to 64% in 2009.” April 14, 2009. 
  2. Johnson, Cynthia. “Killer Smartphone Apps for On-the-Go Physicians.” HealthLeaders Media. July 10, 2009.