Use of Handhelds Increases From 15% in 1999 to 26% in 2001
Usage Higher Among Doctors Who Are Young, Hospital-Based or with
Aug. 15, 2001 -- Many experts predict that within a few years
most doctors will use handheld computing devices, such as the Palm
handhelds or Pocket PC as an integral part of their everyday practice.
It is expected that they will be used to track and update medical
records for prescribing, and for billing and practice management.
The trend is moving strongly in this direction, according to Harris
Interactive Computing in Physician's Practice, but the pace of change
suggests that a majority of doctors will not do this for several
The proportion of all physicians who use handheld personal devices
increased from 15% in 1999 to 26% this year. However, some of these
doctors are using these devices mainly for personal activities.
The number using them as an integral part of their everyday practice
has almost doubled (from 10% in 1999 to 18% this year).
Use of handheld personal devices is higher among doctors under 45
(33%) than among older doctors (21%). It is also higher among those
who are wholly or partly hospital-based (33% and 29%) than among
those who are mostly office-based (23%). Usage is also higher among
physicians in larger practices than in solo or small group practices.
Use of handheld personal devices such as the Palm handheld or Pocket
PC by physicians
"Please indicate which choice below best describes the degree
to which you use each of the following devices or technologies."
Base: All Practicing Physicians
TABLE 1 CONTINUED
How physicians track their clinical work for billing ... Can handhelds
Currently only a few physicians (3%) use handheld devices to track
their work for billing purposes, but that is up from only 1% in
1999. Just over a quarter (27%) track their work on a computer (not
including those who use handheld devices), a modest increase from
23% in 1999.
Half of all practicing physicians (49%) still record their billing
codes on cards or notes (down slightly from 54% in 1999). Fifteen
percent use billing codes that are generated automatically as part
of the clinical record-taking process.
How physicians track their clinical work for billing purposes
"How do you track your clinical work for billing purposes?"
Base: All practicing physicians
How soon will more physicians use handheld devices?
Many physicians who don't currently use handheld devices to take
notes in their practice are uncertain about when they will start
to use them, but only a minority (29%) does not expect to use them
in the next five years. There is clearly a great deal of uncertainty.
Only 11% of those not using handheld devices expect to start doing
so in the next 18 months. And further, 22%
expects to do so in the next five years.
Given these expectations and the current rate of growth in the use
of handhelds over the last two years, one can reasonably estimate
that about half of all doctors will be using handheld devices by
2004 or 2005. However, this rate of growth could be greatly increased
if payers, hospitals and/or group practices mandated their use.
The Leapfrog Group of large employers and many others believe that
electronic medical records and electronic prescribing would substantially
reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care, and they
are pushing hard for their use. Handheld devices are likely to be
used for these purposes in many hospitals and practices -- so the
rate of use may accelerate faster than the estimates given above.
Expected use of handheld devices to record notes among those currently
mainly recording notes via an assistant, handwriting notes and/or
dictating notes onto a tape
"If you are mainly recording notes via an assistant, handwriting
notes and/or dictating notes onto a tape, do you expect to use a
handheld device to record notes?"
Base: Physicians who mainly record notes manually or dictates
It is noteworthy that (according to the Harris Interactive surveys
for the Harvard School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund)
other English-speaking countries - and probably other European countries
- are ahead of the U.S. in their use of electronic medical records
and electronic prescribing. Of course, it's much easier for countries
with universal health insurance systems
to mandate what physicians do.
These research findings come from Harris Interactive Computing in
Physician's Practice, based on interviews with a nationwide sample
of 834 practicing physicians surveyed in January and February 2001.