Physicians have doubled their time online since 2004

By Bernie Monegain
06:59 AM

The head of a New York-based healthcare market research firm says physicians who might have spent four hours a week online in 2004 are now spending at least eight hours in front of a computer.

Physicians were barely aware of the Internet as late as In 2003 physicians, Mark Bard told an audience Wednesday at the sixth annual Connected Health Symposium in Boston, and most certainly didn't see it as essential to their practice.

Now, he said, they view the Internet as a much more valuable – and time-consuming – tool.

"Most of us spend 40 hours a week online," he said, "but physicians see patients."

Nine in 10 U.S. physicians surveyed now agree that the Internet is essential to their practice, according to Bard's research. Seventy-five percent now go online daily for work, he said.

Two-thirds of doctors carry a smart phone – with some of that growth credited to the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

"And they use it at the point of care," Bard said, "fifteeen to 20 times a day."

Manhattan Research forecasts that the physician adoption rate of smart phones will reach 81 percent by 2012.

"By 2012, all physicians will walk around with a stethoscope and a smart mobile device, and there will be very few professional activities that physicians won't be doing on their handhelds," said Monique Levy, senior director of research at Manhattan Research, last month when releasing the results of the survey of 1,900 practicing U.S. physicians.

"Physicians will be going online first for the majority of their professional needs and will be regularly pulling online resources into patient consultations," Levy said.

Electronic prescribing is still lagging, Bard said. Though it has accelerated in the recent years, it's a prime example, he said, of "the promise of technology, the reality of the market and the disconnect."

As for consumers, 90 million U.S. adults went on online for health information in 2004. Today, the number is 160 million, Bard said, and the majority of e-health consumers are now using the Internet after seeing a doctor.

"This is where we're seeing the growth," he said.

In spite of the growth of online users, "traditional offline resources still have a greater impact," Bard said, and "80 million consumers are on the sidelines."

"We're not there," he said. "We're not in a connected health environment. We're about five years away."

Yet, he noted, more growth in connection has occurred over the past five years than in the previous 15 years combined.