PCPs, specialists up their IT use

The increasing adoption of EHRs and other digital technologies by primary care physicians and specialists points to trends expected to help create "dramatic upswings in doctors' case loads," according to a new survey by research company Knowledge Networks.

The survey of nearly 11,000 healthcare professionals was conducted using Mt. Arlington, N.J.-based Physicians Consulting Network (PCN), a physician research panel of specialists and other healthcare professionals.

According to the survey, 52 percent of specialists and 50 percent of PCPs are already keeping their patient records in an electronic format – up 10 percentage points for specialists and 12 points for PCPs since 2008.

Researchers say that while use of this technology will soon be mandated, these "early adopter" levels suggest a desire for digital convenience at a time when patient record keeping promises to become exponentially more complex.

The survey also found that smartphones (such as iPhones and BlackBerries) are quickly becoming a way of life for medical professionals. Sixty-two percent of specialists and 55 percent of PCPs report having one, and roughly 85 percent to 90 percent of those who have them are using them for Internet and for e-mail.

"Smartphones are becoming a way of life for doctors, a trend we observed in our recent presentation at the PMRG National conference," said Joanne French, vice president of client service at Knowledge Networks. "Having resources like the Physicians Consulting Network to explore and monitor the effects of these changes on different prescriber categories is absolutely essential to creating sound marketing strategy and tactics."

The survey showed that 17 percent of PCPs and 18 percent of specialists who have smartphones are using them for e-detailing (using computer technology to enhance or bypass the pharmaceutical representative's traditional sales call) and higher proportions.

Researchers say the uptake in technology is expected to impact the amount of time physicians spend with pharmaceutical sales reps. The survey found 12 percent of specialists and 14 percent of PCPs said they expect to decrease the amount of time they spend with pharmaceutical sales reps in the next six months. These figures are significantly but not dramatically higher than in 2008, when the results were eight percent for specialists and nine percent for PCPs. But the change points to increasing demands on the time of healthcare professionals, researchers said.

"Marketers must adjust to the needs of plugged-in, increasingly busy doctors in everything they do – from the platforms they use for messaging to the time they expect to have with prescribers," said Jim Vielee, senior vice president at Knowledge Networks. "Healthcare professionals are embracing new technologies that promise more control and convenience; we cannot help but see a connection between the use of smartphones for e-detailing and an anticipated drop in time spent with sales reps. These trends seem destined to magnify as healthcare reform takes effect, creating dramatic upswings in doctors' case loads."

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