Why younger physicians will drive mHealth adoption

"Generation C" has recently been defined by Nielsen as adults between 18 and 34 years old, who are entrenched in digital technologies. They are indeed the Connected Generation and use technology by choice in all facets of life. It is part of their fabric.

Those entering the field of medicine would logically desire and expect to carry that over to their professional lives. However, there are multiple barriers to the continuity of this facet of their personal lives to their professional ones as they embark on what is perceived as an otherwise high-tech journey into the healthcare world. They find EHRs that are often not intuitive, high pressurized, short patient visits involving complex medical issues and a system in which connectivity is an adversarial roadblock among commercial technology companies rather than an opportunity for better patient care. Young physicians meet with teachers and mentors experiencing burnout (it is estimated that 75 percent of all physicians today experience burnout) and bitterness fueled by regulatory pressures and the resulting decreased face time with patients.

The healthcare system itself has not yet embraced social media, medical apps, remote patient monitoring, telehealth or informatics as significant tools. EHRs have been adopted primarily because of mandates and financial incentives, not due to an inherent appreciation for the technology itself, yet surveys show that younger physicians adopt EHRs at a greater rate than older physicians.

Young physicians will spearhead the use of mHealth technologies for a few reasons. The BYOD (bring your own device) policy in the healthcare workplace has greater acceptance among young physicians. They are more engaged in social media than older physicians. Mobile health technologies are discussed more in social and online media (used more by younger physicians) than mainstream media. In a recent survey by Jackson and Coker of Physicians in the UK, younger ones (graduating medical school in 2000 and later) were almost 50 percent more likely to appreciate the value of medical apps than older ones (graduating between 1960 and 1985).

Social media represent a vast opportunity for physicians to adopt mHealth technologies. Most physicians use social media for personal use, and professional use has lagged behind. This is in part due to physicians being unaware of the positive aspects of social media of as well as hesitancy because of potential pitfalls. The AMA has recently established and published professional guidelines in the use of social media.

Social media is a place where mHealth technologies are a hot topic and therefore more prone to be seen, reviewed and appreciated by younger physicians. While medicine changes slowly with regards to adoption of new treatments and technology, younger physicians today are taking more initiative in affecting positive changes in the arena.

I look forward to having them become champions of this technology, which will offer more efficient and less complex tools to engage, diagnose and treat their patients.

David Lee Scher is a former cardiac electrophysiologist and is an independent consultant and owner/director at DLS Healthcare Consulting, LLC, concentrating in advising digital health companies and their partnering institutions, providers and businesses. A pioneer adopter of remote cardiac monitoring, he lectures worldwide promoting the benefits of digital health technologies. Twitter: @dlschermd, He also blogs at http://davidleescher.com. He was cited as one of the 10 cardiologists to follow on Twitter and one of the top 10 blogs on healthcare technology.

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