Smartphone technology offers a multitude of applications (apps) that provide a wide range of functions for healthcare professionals. Medical trainees are early adopters of this technology, but how they use smartphones in clinical care remains unclear. Our objective was to further characterize smartphone use by medical trainees at two US academic institutions, as well as their prior training in the clinical use of smartphones.
In 2014, we surveyed 347 internal medicine and emergency medicine resident physicians at the University of Utah and Brigham and Women’s Hospital about their smartphone use and prior training experiences. Scores (0%–100%) were calculated to assess the frequency of their use of general features (email, text) and patient-specific apps, and the results were compared according to resident level and program using the Mann-Whitney U test.
A total of 184 residents responded (response rate, 53.0%). The average score for using general features, 14.4/20 (72.2%) was significantly higher than the average score for using patient-specific features and apps, 14.1/44(33.0%; P < 0.001). The average scores for the use of general features, were significantly higher for year 3–4 residents, 15.0/20 (75.1%) than year 1–2 residents, 14.1/20 (70.5%; P=0.035), and for internal medicine residents, 14.9/20 (74.6%) in comparison to emergency medicine residents, 12.9/20 (64.3%; P = 0.001). The average score reflecting the use of patient-specific apps was significantly higher for year 3–4 residents, 16.1/44 (36.5%) than for year 1–2 residents, 13.7/44 (31.1%; P = 0.044). Only 21.7% of respondents had received prior training in clinical smartphone use.
Residents used smartphones for general features more frequently than for patient-specific features, but patient-specific use increased with training. Few residents have received prior training in the clinical use of smartphones.