THE LATEST NUMBERS ARE IN: HCPs OWN A LOT OF DIGITAL DEVICES. While some headlines cry about slow adoption (“Physicians Like Digital Tech, But Adoption Is Slow“), and others reach the opposite conclusion (“New Study Reveals Physicians’ Device and Digital Media Adoption Rapidly Evolving“), one data point is not being discussed: HCPs dramatically over-index for digital adoption against the general public.
Take tablets like the iPad as an example. According to the PEW Internet and American Life Project, 19% of Americans own a tablet. Manhattan Research’s latest numbers show 62% of physicians own a tablet. That’s a huge gap, however you measure it. The question I want to focus on today is “Why”?
Why have HCPs adopted digital devices like smartphones and tablets at such an enormous rate? I’ve got a few theories, gleaned from conversations and personal relationships that I’d like to share.
Innate nerdiness: I’m going to say it: HCPs are nerds. As a serious nerd myself, I mean this with great respect. People who go into medicine tend by their nature to be on the geekier end of the population spectrum. They want to know how things work, and are not put off by a bit of a learning curve. There’s a correlation between nerds of all stripes and digital, because digital makes nerds better at the thing they’re into, be it bird watching or medicine.
Digital acumen: Making it through a modern advanced degree requires strong familiarity with digital technology. It’s unlikely that anyone who’s graduated from med school in the past 20 years hasn’t had some training in computers and digital research.
Training: Staying with the med school theme, HCP’s professional training involves lots of interaction with high tech gear in the clinical setting. For example, many medical students learned to rely on early mobile tools like Epocrates, making them early adopters in the mobile computing world. Anecdotal evidence suggests use of early PDAs spread virally from students to the HCPs leading rounds as the utility of the early mobile tools were demonstrated.
Affordability: The PEW Internet and American Life Project reports that tablets like the iPad have twice the average adoption rates in households earning over $75,000 a year. With costs for digital access devices like smartphones and tablets well under $1,000 most HCPs can afford to experiment with digital.
Utility: In daily practice, digital tools are moving beyond office optimization and reference to offer utility at point of care. HCPs are using tablets to demonstrate MOA, showcase support and adherence tools to increasingly sophisticated patients, capture patient data, and much more.
Time crunch: The unending desire to do more quickly reaches the limits of what can be fit into 24 hours. HCPs report a strong desire to take advantage of virtual conferences and online CME in order to better manage their time. While adoption has been slow, this will change dramatically as the quality of virtual events improves.
Ubiquity: “There’s an app for that” is doing more than offering new modes of interaction. It’s conditioning all of us to use our digital devices in more and more situations. Just as it’s normal to pull out your phone when you’re in line at the supermarket, it’s becoming normal for a HCP to pull out her phone to demonstrate a point or check a reference at the point of care.
This is admittedly, a highly unscientific overview of a few of the reasons that explain why HCPs have jumped on digital so energetically. Digital adoption is obviously something we at Klick Health are watching closely. We’ll continue to report on the numbers, and continue to examine the “why” behind them.