Smartphones will soon be as ubiquitous as stethoscopes among physicians, according the results of a new report by Manhattan Research.  

Sixty-four percent of U.S. physicians currently own smartphones,and that number is expected to increase to 81% penetration in 2012.

The report, “Physicians in 2012: The Outlook for On Demand, Mobile, and Social Digital Media,” looked at how physician use of emerging technologies such as mobile and social media will evolve in 2012. The report is intended to serve as a guide for manufacturers and publishers looking to leverage imminent digital opportunities.

The report states that even though the last few years saw strong growth in the share of physicians starting to use digital media for work, the next couple of years will see the evolution of a more mature and proficient physician audience.

The report contends that the Internet will become physicians’ primary professional resource. Mobile technology will become even more indispensable to physicians as they start to expand the range of activities they perform on these devices to include administrative tasks and patient monitoring.

Monique Levy, senior director of research at Manhattan Research, said that 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.

Levy added that physicians will be going online first for the majority of their professional needs and will be regularly pulling online resources into patient consultations.

She said that understanding the shifts that are occurring are essential for manufacturers, especially as many are re-evaluating their sales model overall at this time.