With the 2012 mHealth Summit in full swing, a new study conducted by comScore and partner Symphony Health reveals insight into the online and mobile habits of a thousand US physicians. The longitudinal research focused on two behaviors: (1) physician use of websites for healthcare professionals (HCPs) and (2) physician use and preferences concerning smartphones and tablets.
Although as a category, electronic medical records received the smallest amount of physicians in terms of all visits (4%), it surpassed all other sites based on the average number of site visits per physician (18.4%) and the average duration of those visits (18%). According to comScore, this disparity results from an uptick in physicians using electronic records. Considering the role of electronic records in a physician’s practice, it stands to reason that these categories show the greatest concentration of a EHR-enabled physician’s online presence.
After previous surveys have found the same to be true, it comes as no surprise at this point that the use of mobile devices and tablets are on the rise among physicians. This part of the study, which looked at 300 physicians, found that computers were still the most used electronic device but that mobile phones were gaining in importance. “As new platforms emerge, the results also showed that a significant 60 percent also reported using mobile phones on a daily basis, with 62 percent of these daily mobile users indicating they need their device to stay in contact with their job,” the company observed.
Just as smartphones are gaining on computers, so too tablets are gaining on these smart devices. Although a minority of physicians uses tablets (44%), a majority of them would actually prefer a tablet (64%) to mobile phones (55%). As a result, the study concludes that this disparity between mobile and tablet use should decrease in time not only because of preference but also the ability to connect to an EMR or EHR system via the tablet. Moreover, despite noting a greater tendency to use smartphones and tablets among specialists as compared to general practitioners, the study found no correlation between age and device use.
A curious finding within the study involves the relationship between online advertising and physician prescribing habits:
An analysis of high-prescribing physicians’ online behavior from Q1 2011 through Q1 2012 showed a strong correlation (R²=0.6557) between share of visits to Medscape properties among high-prescribing physicians and the number of pharmaceutical ad impressions to which they were exposed. While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, this strong positive association indicates the possibility of online ad exposure driving prescription activity.
Considering that more and more physicians are browsing the web to find medical resources or to connect with an online community of their colleagues, they may be giving marketers and advertisers more opportunities to influence their decision-making and purchasing. The most logical place to find insight about this our those web-based EMR vendors which offset the cost of an EMR system by selling ad space running alongside the web-based electronic record.