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Web-Exclusive Report: Physicians Found Craving iPads

May 27, 2010
by Mark Hagland
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A recent survey suggests that many clinicians are on-board with the I-Pad.

Are physicians in the U.S. craving the just-released Apple iPad? Well, let’s put it this way: they certainly are intrigued by the device, if the results of a recent survey accurately reflect their views. In late February (more than two months before the iPad actually made its commercial debut, researchers at the San Mateo-based Epocrates, the drug-reference solution vendor, asked physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners what they thought of the iPad, and how much they wanted it.

Here’s what the researchers found: of 392 total clinicians surveyed (of whom 260 were physicians and the remainder were physician assistants and nurse practitioners), a significant plurality (23 percent) were already planning to buy the iPad for their use, a couple of months before its commercial release. Of that 23 percent, 9 percent were planning to buy the mobile device “when it’s available,” while another 14 percent expected to do so “within the next year.” Another 38 percent queried said, “Maybe, I need to learn more information,” while 40 percent described themselves as “not likely to buy” the device. Given that this survey was conducted more than two months before the actual in-store release of iPads, the numbers of ready-to-buy physicians probably would have been higher now, says Epocrates spokesperson Erica Morgenstern. “I think if we did this survey now, that the affirmative responses might have been higher, since people can now look at the iPad and feel it and play with it,” Morgenstern says.

Also of interest, the average age of Epocrates users is 46, and while 44.9 percent of the respondents to the iPad survey were between 35 and 49 years old, fully 28.32 percent were between 40 and 64 years old (while 23.72 percent were 20-34 years old, and 3.32 percent were 65 or older). These results are also interesting in light of what kinds of mobile devices physicians and allied healthcare professionals are already using. As of February, 50.26 percent of survey respondents had an iPhone or iPod touch; 23.21 percent were using a handheld device with the Palm operating system (such as TX, E2, or Treo); 17.09 percent were using a Blackberry; and 3.32 percent were using a device with the Palm web OS (Palm Pre, Palm Pixi); meanwhile, a smattering of respondents were using some other form of mobile device. How fast might the trajectory of iPad adoption move? “I think it will be very dependent on the healthcare applications that are developed specifically for the iPad,” Morgenstern says. “The quality of those applications will drive iPad adoption. Since over 20 percent of U.S. physicians are already using the iPhone or iPod Touch, there’s already been a huge adoption of Apple products,” she notes. Indeed, her own company is developing an electronic health record, with a version of its application for the iPad.

Who knows what the results of a survey like this might be in one year from now? What’s very clear is that physicians as a whole are moving forward to purchase handheld mobile devices at a fairly assertive rate of adoption.