Smart phones proliferate among docs

About 80% of all US physicians will be using smart phones by 2012, and not just for drug reference or clinical information. An explosion of new healthcare professional-facing apps—over 1,500 in Apple's app store alone—will expand mobile device usage to include patient care and administrative functions, according to Manhattan Research survey.

Creating apps for physicians makes a lot of sense, considering that docs have been using PDAs with applications, for a long time, said  Jeannette Kocsis, SVP, digital marketing, at Harte-Hanks Direct. The mobile-optimized web is also important, said Kocsis, particularly because updates are managed by the website host, as opposed to a physician having to update an application.

Marketers looking to use medical reference apps to reach doctors are mostly confined to sponsorship, which usually provides a dedicated space within the app for a direct message to the doctor, said Kocsis.
In disease state categories, however, there is a growing opportunity to create brand-specific content that can be useful to marketers, said Kocsis.

Half of the apps available in Apple's medical category are for medical reference, 9.3% of the apps are calculators, 7% of the apps are for EMR and operations, 3.4% are for prenatal and infant care, and 3% are for chronic disease management, according to a quantitative study on mobile health apps conducted by MobiHealthNews. Emergency information, medication adherence and CME apps make up a combined 4% of the total medical apps (24% of the apps in the category were labeled other or miscatagorized).

While Apple's app store is by far the biggest—Google's Android Market, the second largest, has 500 health-related apps compared with Apple's 5,000—there is still some debate over which smart phone is used most by doctors. A recent SDI survey found that iPhones were used most among docs using smart phones to access medical information. BlackBerry's App World only lists about 140 health-related apps, according to the MobiHealthNews survey, the company takes a different approach to verticals in the healthcare space, offering an enterprise server to its healthcare customers, the report said.

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