DOWNERS GROVE, Ill.―While tablets and smartphones are kicking off the next wave of mobile health in medical practices, physicians are not so keen on adopting telemedicine, according to a new study by CompTIA. The group surveyed 350 doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers or administrators, along with 400 IT firms with healthcare IT practices for its third annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities study.
A not-for-profit association for the IT industry, CompTIA found in its study, released Nov. 16, that while laptops and notebook PCs are commonplace in the medical community at this point, newer mobile devices and applications are picking up steam. Fast. And while one quarter of healthcare providers surveyed are currently using tablets in their medical practice, another 21 percent expect to do so within the next 12 months.
Additionally, more than half of the healthcare professionals surveyed use a smartphone for work purposes, and about 38 percent of doctors with a mobile phone capable of supporting medical applications, use medical-related apps on a daily basis. That number is only expected to increase over the next year, as 50 percent of the doctors surveyed said they plan to increase their daily usage of medical apps.
“As mobile devices and applications have become more user-friendly, affordable and powerful, the appeal to businesses of all types, including healthcare providers, has grown exponentially,” said Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA.
Two-thirds of the healthcare providers surveyed by CompTIA said implementing or improving their use of mobile technologies is a high or mid-level priority in the next 12 months.
Telemedicine Still in Early Stages
Despite a seeming flurry of pilot programs and technologies to support telemedicine—doctors reaching and interacting with patients in remote locals, for example—the CompTIA report found that widespread use of telemedicine is still not quite there yet. According to the report, just 14 percent of healthcare professionals report actively following news and trends related to telemedicine. Perhaps even more telling, 37 percent of caregivers surveyed expressed little interested in the topic.
On the upside for those espousing the benefits of telemedicine—including technology vendors making significant investments in enabling technologies--healthcare providers said they see the greatest benefits of telemedicine in the areas of continuing medical education (61 percent of those surveyed), specialist referral services (44 percent) and patient consultations (37 percent). Additionally, one in ten healthcare providers said they intend to use video conferencing for patient interaction within the next 12 months.
EHRs on the Upswing
CompTIA’s study found that almost one third of providers currently use their smartphones or tablets to access Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, with 20 percent expecting to start accessing electronic records from their mobile devices within the next year.
Overall adoption of EHR systems is also on the rise, with 38 percent of healthcare providers having a comprehensive system in place, and 17 percent having a partial system or module in place. Interestingly, among those practices that have a full EHR system in place, only 61 percent reported gave a “net satisfaction” rating.
“Many healthcare practices continue to move along the EMR/EHR learning curve,” CompTIA’s Herbert stated. “With any significant business transformation, hiccups will occur along the way.”
Of those areas that need improvement, CompTIA pointed to a number of things, including: greater ease of use; better interoperability with other systems; faster speeds; improved remote access and mobility features; and more training.
Finally, the report made a tenuous finding in the area of cloud computing adoption in the healthcare industry. While the study found an astonishingly low familiarity rate with cloud computing at 57 percent—and an even lower usage rate of five percent—the results are a bit misleading. According to CompTIA, some healthcare providers are likely using cloud-based applications, like software-as-a-service, but not aware that they are using a cloud based solution.
Despite the low awareness of cloud computing in and of itself, CompTIA believes the potential for cloud growth in the healthcare industry is strong, for one simple reason: a key component of EHR meaningful use is the ability to share information via health information exchanges. This ability to share information will require many of the elements of cloud computing—flexibility, scalability, big data capacity, redundancy and robustness, according to CompTIA.
Of those healthcare providers with some level of cloud familiarity, CompTIA found a strong interest in cloud-based EHRs was expressed.