Docs use iPads, but don't see them as game-changers

By Eric Wicklund
09:54 AM

A new survey indicates physicians are embracing mobile health devices, but don’t see them changing the healthcare landscape just yet.

The report, “Point of Care Computing for Physicians 2012,” prepared by Spyglass Consulting, indicates 98 percent of physicians interviewed are using mobile devices to support both personal and professional workflows – but 83 percent are using desktop computers as their primary source for accessing patient data when at the hospital, clinic or home.

Mobile devices, the study indicates, are favored by physicians only when outside the office or home.

[See also: iPad can accelerate new era of care.]

‘They’re very quick to point out that mobility has its place to address very specific workflows,” said Gregg Malkary, managing director of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Spyglass Consulting Group.

Part of the problem, he said, lies in the pace of development. While the devices are being adopted “at a phenomenally rapid pace,” he said, they’re not being redesigned to fit the clinical needs of the physicians. For example, he said, the study indicates 80 percent of physicians surveyed believe the iPad shows promise for healthcare, but at present it can only be used as a communications platform.

“What we’re missing is innovative applications – native apps,” Malkary said.

“The iPad represents only one component of an overall end-to-end clinical solution,” he said. “Significant software innovation will be required to realize the vision for anytime, anywhere clinical computing. Clinical applications must be rewritten and optimized to take advantage of the native capabilities of the Apple iPad and other mobile devices including gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and video conferencing.”

Likewise, Malkary said, while physicians are embracing mobile devices, hospital IT departments, which have generally invested a lot of time and money in desktop solutions, see mobility as a duplicate investment or, even worse, “a threat to the network.” According to the study, three of every four physicians surveyed said hospital IT executives are resistant to supporting mobile devices on the company network.

[See also: iPad EHR gains meaningful use certification.]

There are exceptions to the rule. The Palomar Pomerado Health System in San Diego, led by Chief Medical Information Officer Ben Kanter, MD, has developed a framework of applications to support mobile devices in the hospital.

“That’s the kind of thing you need – a clinical team redesigning applications to fit their workflow,” Malkary said.

The bottom line, Malkary said, is that physicians and hospitals are focused at the moment on meaningful use and being compensated for their time. Until mobile devices demonstrate a return on investment, he said, they’ll be regarded as nice to have, but not necessary.

“Bottom line, they need tools that can make them do their jobs better so they can make more money,” he said. “We need new ways to be able to interact with data.”