Docs flock to smart phones

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: September 3rd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Many savvy doctors these days are adding a new tool to their medical kits: a smart phone. More and more physicians are using the high-tech devices to do everything from write electronic prescriptions, review X-rays and M-R-I scans… even stream music from the Internet during surgery.

According to Manhattan Research, about sixty-four percent of physicians are now using smart phones. The popular iPhone is encouraging this trend by creating applications marketed to doctors, including one that helps them deduce the correct medication if patients can’t remember the name of the pills they are taking. Doctors type in pill characteristics, such as color and shape, and the program spits out a list of medications and images that fit the criteria.

In some cases, smart phones can literally be lifesaving. There are stories of doctors who have been away from the hospital but were able to access patients’ images and other health information on their handheld devices. After reviewing the data, they were able to consult with colleagues remotely to ensure quick action was taken, or, in some cases, to race back to the hospital to perform surgery or provide other care themselves.

There is a potential downside to the trend. Some patient advocacy groups have expressed privacy concerns about the use of smart phones. They say more effort needs to be spent on ensuring systems are secure and encrypted.

But it seems likely more and more doctors will use the devices. In fact, some medical schools are even requiring them, building the cost into patients’ tuition.