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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Smartphone and medical related App use among medical students and junior doctors in the United Kingdom (UK): a regional survey

Karl Frederick Braekkan Payne1, Heather Wharrad2* and Kim Watts2

Author Affiliations

1 King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Denmark Hill, SE5 9RS, London

2 School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2HA, UK

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2012, 12:121  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-121

Published: 30 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Smartphone usage has spread to many settings including that of healthcare with numerous potential and realised benefits. The ability to download custom-built software applications (apps) has created a new wealth of clinical resources available to healthcare staff, providing evidence-based decisional tools to reduce medical errors.

Previous literature has examined how smartphones can be utilised by both medical student and doctor populations, to enhance educational and workplace activities, with the potential to improve overall patient care. However, this literature has not examined smartphone acceptance and patterns of medical app usage within the student and junior doctor populations.

Methods

An online survey of medical student and foundation level junior doctor cohorts was undertaken within one United Kingdom healthcare region. Participants were asked whether they owned a Smartphone and if they used apps on their Smartphones to support their education and practice activities. Frequency of use and type of app used was also investigated. Open response questions explored participants’ views on apps that were desired or recommended and the characteristics of apps that were useful.

Results

257 medical students and 131 junior doctors responded, equating to a response rate of 15.0% and 21.8% respectively. 79.0% (n=203/257) of medical students and 74.8% (n=98/131) of junior doctors owned a smartphone, with 56.6% (n=115/203) of students and 68.4% (n=67/98) of doctors owning an iPhone.

The majority of students and doctors owned 1–5 medical related applications, with very few owning more than 10, and iPhone owners significantly more likely to own apps (Chi sq, p<0.001). Both populations showed similar trends of app usage of several times a day. Over 24hours apps were used for between 1–30 minutes for students and 1–20 minutes for doctors, students used disease diagnosis/management and drug reference apps, with doctors favouring clinical score/calculator apps.

Conclusions

This study found a high level of smartphone ownership and usage among medical students and junior doctors. Both groups endorse the development of more apps to support their education and clinical practice.

Keywords:
Smartphones; App use; Medical students; Doctors; Mobile technologies; Survey