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Clinicians Embracing mHealth – but not so much if patients are involved

By Clive Riddle, September 12, 2014 

Although lagging behind many other service sectors, healthcare clinicians do continue to their march towards the inevitable professional embrace of mobile apps, social media and other web applications – typically as long as that embrace falls short of interacting with their patients. 

Wolters Kluwer Health just released survey results on nurse practitioner use of mobile health, social media and the web. The survey was conducted on their behalf by Lippincott Solutions. 

The survey found that 65% of nurses currently use a mobile device at work for professional purposes at least 30 minutes per day, and 95% of healthcare organizations allow them to consult websites and other online resources for clinical information at work. 

The survey findings also indicated:

  • 83% of nurses perceive that their organization's policy allows patient care staff access to web sites, including social media, to access general health information regarding patient conditions
  • 48% of respondents that access health information say their organization encourages nurses to access online resources; while 41% allow for occasional use; and 5% only as a last resort
  • 89% of healthcare organizations allow nurses to use online search engines at work
  • 60% of respondents say they use social media to follow healthcare issues at work
  • 86% say they follow healthcare issues on social media outside of work
  • 20% of nurses use mobile health apps for two hours or more per day
  • Among those who use mobile devices at work, Nurse Managers, at 77%, are more likely to use them than Staff Nurses, at 58% 

But their report notes that “73% of healthcare respondents say that organizational policies strictly prohibit direct patient care staff to have social interaction with patients on social media and social sites, compared to 51% say that organizational policies prohibit direct patient care staff to have access to their organizations’ own social media pages.” 

A Walters Kluwer survey of physicians last year found that 21% of doctors didn’t use smartphones in their practice, 46% used them less than 25% of the day, and 33% used them more than 25% of the day. Regarding use of tablets, 39% of doctors didn’t use tablets in their practice, 37% used them less than 25% of the day, and 24% used them more than 25% of the day. Of those who did use mobile devices at work,  24% use mhealth apps; while 33% used their smartphones to communicate with patients, and  17% used their tablets for patient communication. 

While many integrated systems like Kaiser have structured electronic interaction with patients into their system, basic impediments for many continue to be a lack of reimbursement, as well as legal concerns about doing so. 

Yet it is exactly that interaction that their customers are asking for.  For example, Harris Poll results just released for a survey commissioned by Wellocracy found that 66% of those who have used a wearable mhealth tracker or app in the past 12 months ndicated that they would be interested in receiving personalized feedback on their health data from a trusted health expert, such as a doctor, nutritionist, fitness trainer or licensed lifestyle coach, and of those respondents: 75% would be willing to pay for personalized feedback and coaching from a doctor, and 73% from a nutritionist, nurse or dietician.

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