According to Manhattan Research, physicians' professional use of mobile devices is primarily for research and reference-checking
purposes; they generally leave more complex activities like CME and social networking to their PCs. But as mobile browsing
capabilities improve, physicians will start to use smart phones for more advanced activities. By 2012, about half of physician
smart phone owners will use their devices for administrative functions, learning, and patient care.
"I don't think anyone would have predicted this type of adoption rate a few years ago," says Rose Crane, CEO and president
of Epocrates. "But there are so many apps in the healthcare category. Once you get past the second page of apps in the iTunes
store, you get buried. I think the idea of 'If you build it, they will come,' is not always true. [Doctors] need to see value
in the application."
The top applications for physicians include drug reference programs from Epocrates and Medscape; more apps should start springing
up for patient monitoring and clinical data dissemination, as well as those that help doctors run the business of their practice.
"Physicians have always been ahead of the curve in terms of using applications for checking drug information," Levy says.
"It's going to be interesting to see how things change when electronic medical records are adopted and how detailed content
creation will be done on a larger device like the Apple iPad."
The challenge with healthcare is that it's such an information rich medium with electronic medical records, etc, but everything
has always been hidden behind firewalls and in proprietary systems—the data wasn't accessible. Farzan says, "What we are seeing
with mobile platforms, and the concept of these app stores, is a way to break through these barriers of segregated proprietary
FDA on Apps: Dabbling in a Gray Area (GETTY IMAGES / SCOTT DUNLAP)
Joe Volpe, director of marketplace innovation at J&J agrees, going as far as calling remote healthcare "the future of healthcare."
"You're going to see a push towards things that can be done in the home to get the patient more involved in the process, and
that inform and educate them," he says.
Epocrates knows that very well: They've been in the game for close to a decade, having originally launched their mobile physician
resource on the Palm Pilot. The reference program is designed for doctors to use at the point of care to look up more than
4,200 monographs. About 180,000 of the 275,000 Epocrates users are using the program on the iPhone.
"The iPhone, when it came along, just accelerated the use of drug reference tool by physicians, because so many doctors adopted
the iPhone," Crane says. "We have a product called DocAlert Messaging that pharma companies can sponsor. One in four of the
clinical messages are sponsored by a pharma company."
Within the app, Epocrates offers technology that allows pharma companies to message physicians directly. These sponsored pharma
tools include mobile detailing and a product called "Contact Manufacturer" that allows a doctor to reach out to a manufacturer
for more information about a drug.
"The phone is a great tool for messaging because everything is approved and we work with the regulatory departments to make
sure everything is okay to release," Crane says.