In terms of the number of physician users, the tremendous growth in popularity of personal digital assistants may be slowing a bit. In terms of functionality in medical settings, PDAs may be just taking off.
In the sixth annual Modern Physician/Pricewaterhouse- Coopers survey of physician executive opinions on key information systems issues, 17.6% of respondents indicate that more than 75% of physicians in their organizations carry and use handheld computers. That is down slightly from 18.3% a year ago.
On the other end of the scale, those with less than a 25% physician PDA usage rate also dipped marginally, to 45.3% from 47.9%, in the past 12 months.
Modern Physician will publish full results and in-depth analysis of the 2003 survey in the November issue of the magazine. Highlights will appear on ModernPhysician.com and in the MP Stat e-newsletter each Monday through Nov. 3.
About 75% of respondents report that their organizations have at least one physician with a PDA, almost triple the rate of three years ago.
Physicians still use PDAs for personal purposes more than any other reason, but the gap is closing. PDA usage for drug reference has nearly doubled since 2001, to 68.1% from 35.6% two years ago. The most popular electronic pharmaceutical reference software for handheld computers, ePocrates Rx and Rx Pro, together have 300,000 registered users in the United States, 130,000 of whom are physicians, according to San Mateo, Calif.-based ePocrates.
Only 21.6% of respondents take patient census on handhelds, but that number is up from 13.9% two years ago. Similarly, charge capture has risen to 15.4% from 10% in 2001, while those entering laboratory orders or checking results on PDAs now number 10.6% of respondents, vs. a mere 2.5% in 2001.
"We believe that there will be a continuing increase in the percentage of physicians who use handhelds for business applications," says Donald Michaels, a Boston-based PricewaterhouseCoopers principal who examined the survey results.