Survey: Doctors prefer tablets for journal articles, smartphones for most other tasks

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 27, 2014        

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Kalnar over timeWhen it comes to reading articles in medical journals, 28 percent of physicians use tablets and 21 percent use smartphones according to a recently published study by ad agency WPP’s Kantar Media. That’s still much lower than the 74 percent that use a desktop or laptop computer or the 55 percent still reading paper journals.

Kantar Media surveyed 3,000 doctors across 22 specialties over two different six month periods for the study. The latest data was collected via questionnaires sent out by mail between May 2013 and August 2013 and an online survey conducted in July and August 2013.

Around 51 percent of physicians told Kantar they use a tablet device for professional purposes. Forty-nine percent said they used a tablet for personal and professional purposes, 19 percent for personal use only, and just 2 percent for professional use only. Adoption was much higher for smartphones — Kantar found that 78 percent used them for professional and personal tasks, 10 percent used them for proffesional tasks only, and less than 1 percent used them for personal tasks only.

The study showed that reading medical journals is one of the few tasks for which doctors are more likely to employ tablets than smartphones. A second is to access medically oriented podcasts and webcasts, something 16 percent of doctors do on a tablet versus 12 percent on a smartphone. Overall, though, Kantar found that doctors are still more likely to use a smartphone than a tablet for professional tasks, including researching specific clinical situations and getting professional news updates.

Kantar looked at specific apps that were most popular for physicians and also found a significantly different list for smartphones than for tablets. For smartphone apps, 56 percent of doctors used diagnostic or clinical reference tools, 51 percent used drug coding or reference apps, 37 percent used medical journal, magazine, or newspaper apps, and 31 percent used workflow tools. In terms of tablet apps, though, 37 percent used medical journal, newspaper, or magazine apps, 30 percent of doctors used diagnostic or clinical reference apps, 27 percent used electronic medical record apps and 22 percent of used drug and coding reference apps. Accessing the Internet and checking email, however, were still the top use cases for both tablets and smartphones.

Additionally, Kantar found that survey participants had downloaded an average of seven apps for professional or personal purposes in the past six months. Twenty-four percent had downloaded at least 10 apps in that time. Additionally, 31 percent had paid to download an app and 15 percent had uninstalled at least one app.

The 51 percent of doctors who use tablets for professional reasons, combined with the 19 percent who use them for personal tasks only puts the total physician tablet adoption at around 70 percent — comparable to Manhattan Research’s figure in their latest “Taking the Pulse” survey. In April 2013, Manhattan said that 72 percent of doctors owned tablets, and reported similar insights to Kantar on how doctors use tablets. Correction: A previous version of this article suggested that 51 percent was total adoption, rather than professional only, and incorrectly compared the data to the Manhattan numbers as a result.

“There’s 72 percent who own one but they’re not all using it the same way,” Manhattan Research President Meredith Ressi said at the time. “There’s a minority who are very active users treating it as a quasi-mobile device, using it throughout the day for both information look-up and content consumption. And then there’s more of a leanback crew, more of an ‘on the couch’ thing, watching video and reading emails.”

Kantar reported in April on physician smartphone adoption, finding that 74 percent of doctors used smartphones for professional purposes.