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Increased Use of Mobile Devices in Clinical Settings

Mobile Device Use Increasing Study shows increased use of mobile devices in clinical settings

Mobile device use as a tool in the clinical setting among orthopedic surgeons and trainees has increased during a 48-month period, according to results. 

From August 2010 to August 2014, researchers sent a questionnaire to 678 institutions to evaluate the use of mobile devices and applications among trainees and physicians in the clinical setting. Researchers collected data at seven time points from 467, 622, 329, 223, 237, 111 and 134 orthopedic caregivers during a 48-month period. Results showed an increase in the number of providers with Smartphone devices during the 4-year period.

Smartphone application use within practice also increased from 59% in 2010 to 84% in 2014 for trainees and from 41% to 62% during 2010 to 2011 for attending surgeons. These rates were around 55% to 60% through 2014 for attending surgeons, according to results. From December 2011 through August 2014, researchers found the use of tablets for medical decisions ranged from 43% to 51% for trainees and from 31% to 39% for attending surgeons.

Benefits Devices Provide

Mobile Device Use Increasing – Mobile devices and apps provide many benefits for Health Care Professionals (HCPs), perhaps most significantly increased access to point-of-care tools, which has been shown to support better clinical decision-making and improved patient outcomes.2,8–10

Types and Prevalence of Devices Used

The introduction of mobile computing devices (personal digital assistants [PDAs], followed by smartphones and tablet computers) has greatly impacted many fields, including medicine. Health care professionals now use smartphone or tablet computers for functions they used to need a pager, cellphone, and PDA to accomplish.7 Smartphones and tablets combine both computing and communication features in a single device that can be held in a hand or stored in a pocket, allowing easy access and use at the point of care.7

In addition to voice and text, new mobile device models offer more advanced features, such as web searching, global positioning systems (GPS), high-quality cameras, and sound recorders.12 With these features, as well as powerful processers and operating systems, large memories, and high-resolution screens, mobile devices have essentially become handheld computers.12

The first mobile device that incorporated both

communication and computing features was the Blackberry, which was introduced in 2002.5After the Blackberry was brought to market, other handheld mobile devices were introduced. Perhaps most notably, in January 2007, Apple launched the first-generation iPhone.5 Subsequently, smartphones that run the Google Android operating system were introduced in October 2008.5 Because of the intuitive touch-screen user interfaces and advanced features and capabilities that the iPhone and Android smartphones offer, ownership of mobile devices has increased rapidly.12

In April 2010, Apple introduced a new innovation, the iPad tablet computer, which because of ease of use, portability, and a comparatively large screen was yet another transformative computing tool.5The iPad ignited the tablet computer market.9 Tablets that run the Google Android operating system (Samsung Galaxy and others) were launched later that year, making the use of these mobile devices even more widespread.5

Without a doubt, medicine is one of the disciplines that has been profoundly affected by the availability of mobile devices.4 This is evident in many surveys of HCPs that reveal a high ownership rate of these tools, which HCPs use in both clinical practice and education.2 Smartphones and tablets have even replaced desktop systems as the preferred computing devices for HCPs who need fast access to information at the point of care.9

The June 2012 Manhattan Research/Physician Channel Adoption Study found that doctors’ ownership and use of mobile devices is pervasive, with 87% using a smartphone or tablet device in their workplace, compared to 99% who use a computer.13 Interestingly, the popularity of mobile devices does not correspond with age, since 80% of physicians ages 55 and older own a smartphone.13

Similar results reflecting the pervasive use of mobile devices by HCPs were reported in a survey of medical school faculty, residents, and students.1 The results of this study found that 85%, 90%, and 85% of respondents, respectively, use mobile devices in a wide variety of clinical settings ranging from classrooms to hospitals.1

One major motivation driving the widespread adoption of mobile devices by HCPs has been the need for better communication and information resources at the point of care.7,14 Ideally, HCPs require access to many types of resources in a clinical setting, including:

  • Communication capabilities—voice calling, video conferencing, text, and e-mail 7
  • Hospital information systems (HISs)—electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs), clinical decision support systems (CDSSs), picture archiving and communication systems (PACSs), and laboratory information systems (LISs)7
  • Informational resources—textbooks, guidelines, medical literature, drug references7
  • Clinical software applications—disease diagnosis aids, medical calculators7

Prior to the development of mobile devices, these resources were mainly provided by stationary computers. Which do not support the need for mobility in health care settings.7 In an attempt to address this need. Some health care environments set up portable. Wireless mobile information stations such as Computers on Wheels (COWs) or Workstations on Wheels (WOWs).7 With the availability of mobile devices, however, clinicians now have access to a wellspring of information at their fingertips, through their smartphones and tablets.10

The results of the 2012 Manhattan Research/Physician Channel Adoption Study also identified the purposes for which HCPs rely on mobile devices.13Searching was the most popular activity among HCPs, with 98% using their desktops/laptops to search, 63% using their tablets, and 56% using their smartphones.13 Focusing on smartphone use for doctors alone, searching is again the most common activity, occupying 48% of phone time, with professional apps consuming an additional 38%.13

Physicians were also found to spend an average of three hours per week watching web videos for professional purposes on desktops/laptops (67%), tablets (29%), and smartphones (13%); the most frequently viewed content (55%) was continuing medical education (CME) activities.13 A frequent reliance on mobile devices was also reported in the survey of medical school HCPs and students, with 85% reporting the use of a mobile device at least once daily for clinical purposes, often for information and time management or communication relating to education and patient care.1


Dr. Kris Dinucci