Digital Planning: Don’t Forget Nurses - And Try to Enthuse Doctors

A recent study shows that those championing mobile health may not be Doctors after all...

It seems that barely a week goes past without some new, optimistic study about how doctors are rapidly taking up their smartphones and tablets and going all digitally native on us. But we don’t tend to hear that much about the nurses - indeed, in all the talk about getting doctors enthused about each new app, each new PharmVille (just working on that one), we tend to let nurses slip off the radar a bit.

But, as a new study by Manhattan Research reveals, this is a big mistake. Big. Huge.

Manhattan Research’s survey of more than 1000 US registered nurses (RNs), physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) demonstrates that these group are currently significantly more likely than physicians to engage digitally.

74% of PAs use smartphones during patient consultations, compared to a lowly 40% of physicians. RNs spend on average 16 hours online professionally, compared to the 11 hours physicians spend. Of particular note are the statistics that 37% of RNs use pharma and biotech websites in any given week, while only a paltry 23% of doctors do the same; perhaps most significantly, while 67% of physicians are currently interested in using pharma features on EHR systems, 83% of RNs are. That’s a pretty high number.

So what do these figures mean for pharma?

Well, considering that 98% of PAs and 75% of ARPNs write at least one prescription a week, they mean quite a lot. They mean that focusing your digital planning almost entirely on doctors (as happened at the recent NHS Hack Day in the UK) is short-sighted, even blinkered, and in the long run, will mean that your digital wing underachieves and doesn’t fulfill its potential. Simply put, forget nurses at your peril.

But there is a more sober message as well: clearly, doctors have not yet been convinced as to the inherent usefulness of the digital side of healthcare and pharma. This is an obstacle that will need to be overcome if pharma is to really use digital platforms in a way that will benefit patients. We need doctors on-side - especially since, outside of the US, doctors are our only real route towards communicating with, and delivering for, patients.

To do this, we need to involve doctors more directly with the creation of the digital tools that we want to get them using. It’s no good just telling doctors what they need - often they know what they need, and if they’re not using the tools we give them, chances are, those tools aren’t quite what they want. Doctors are not all a bunch of luddites - but they are busy, and if they don’t see the point of a tool, if it’s not clearly going to help them do their job better, they aren’t going to bother to learn how to integrate it into their professional life.

So as an industry, let’s go forth and speak to doctors and find out what they want. And let’s give nurses what they’re already asking for.

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