Survey shows future docs all about IT

By Molly Merrill
04:23 PM

"The future physician of America" is a tech savvy one – one who reaches for an iPhone to choose clinical references, and who expects to use an EHR when he or she begins practicing, according to a recent survey of medical students.
The fifth annual Future Physicians of America survey, sponsored by Epocrates, polled more than 700 medical students who use the company's software, seeking their opinions on a range of topics impacting the medical profession. Approximately 80 percent of survey respondents will be practicing physicians in less than two years.

The survey found that students this year were twice as likely to turn to mobile references compared to respondents in 2009. Nearly 80 percent of students report using Epocrates on a daily basis, with the majority using it multiple times throughout the day to confirm proper drug doses and check for adverse reactions or drug-drug interactions.

Clayton Knight, a fourth year medical student at the Ohio State College of Medicine, who uses Epocrates on his iPod, said he doesn't think checking the technology before asking an attending is necessarily a bad thing. "If there is a gap in my knowledge, I use [Epocrates] to fill in that gap, and if there is still a gray area I will go to my attending."

Through a partnership with Hudson, Ohio-based Lexi-Comp, Ohio State also provides its students with another software program that offers point-of-care drug information. Clayton said having these pocket resources handy has proven very useful in checking for adverse events and even in helping patients identify what pills they're taking. He said he hopes there will be a push for more medical students to have them and for the nation to have more "fondness" for these electronic tools.

"It is interesting that medical students are more likely to use a drug reference tool than ask a peer or mentor a question," said Sean Handel, Epocrates vice president of subscriber business. "These students have grown-up in a digital culture and are not only comfortable with technology, they prefer it. Fortunately, they understand that not all resources are created equal and the quality of content is as important as the speed to access. As the survey showed, drug reference trust rate is at nearly 90 percent and internet search credibility is less than half of that."
The study showed Apple mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod touch have soared in popularity with nearly 70 percent of students currently using the device – a 37 percent increase over 2009 respondents. More than 40 percent of future physicians also say they plan to upgrade to a newer smartphone within the next year, and of those, more than 60 percent plan to purchase the iPhone and nearly a quarter will buy an Android device, according to the survey.

The study found that students have high expectations for EHRs, with 70 percent of medical students saying the technology is an important factor in deciding where they will practice medicine.

"The incoming batch of doctors are getting exposure to EHR systems early on, so it's something they are not afraid of," said Handel. "They can clearly see the benefits and would like to start practicing with one in place."

Ohio State's University Hospital's emergency room is using electronic records, but University Hospital East ER is still paper-based, which prepares medical students for practicing medicine in either setting, says Clayton, who plans to pursue emergency medicine in the southeast region of the U.S.

The study showed that in contrast to industry predictions, students believe the benefits to medical practices will be the main driver for EHR implementation, rather than government initiatives.

Ohio State College of Medicine is in the processing of moving over to an Epic EHR system. Clayton says the transition has made him much more aware of the cost associated with the technology. He believes that the government incentives will help to spur adoption in rural areas that may not have been able to afford it.

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