5 Surprising Findings About the Digital Physician in Mexico
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5 Surprising Findings About the Digital Physician in Mexico

Photo by:   Enrique Culebro Karam
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By Enrique Culebro - Central Media - digital advertising agency specialized in health
CEO

STORY INLINE POST

This year, Central Media (a digital agency specialized in health) in conjunction with the Mexican Health Foundation (FUNSALUD) started to work on the Estudio Médic@ digital en México, a project whose objective was to learn about the current uses, habits and attitudes regarding the digital ecosystem of healthcare professionals in Mexico. This research was carried out between May and September 2022.

More than 2,000 digital surveys were answered by doctors nationwide, covering more than 18 medical specialties. The questionnaire consisted of 63 questions divided into six categories: 

  1. Digital activities

  2. Patient contact

  3. Technology in the consulting room

  4. Digital resources in medical practice

  5. Social platforms for physicians

  6. Interaction with pharma companies

The study revealed some important results in terms of virtual consults, device management, use of the electronic clinical record, software management and patient behavior, among others. 

This is one of the most ambitious and complete studies conducted in Mexico in collaboration with medical associations, industry providers and companies interested in healthcare. Here are the most interesting insights we have discovered so far:

  1. Whatsapp is considered the main platform for digital transformation in medical practice.

It is self-evident: the Mexican physician uses his smartphone on a daily basis for work. This mobile tool is the preferred device to access digital resources and it is also the most frequently used one.

In 2022, the leading position in the national app stores (for both operating systems, IOS and Android) belongs to Whatsapp in terms of total active users, and the medical community is no exception to that.

Ninety-four percent of Mexican physicians declare that Whatsapp is the most liked social platform for professional purposes; therefore, this instant messaging tool is also the main digital channel for staying  in touch with the patient.

The app is not only an efficient resource to share valuable scientific information, but also a diagnostic support, allowing  engagement with colleagues and key opinion leaders. In fact, 6 out of 10 doctors declare that Whatsapp remains the main channel to communicate with pharma companies.

  1. The doctor-patient relationship is no longer the same because of the never-ending research that the patient, as the client, is doing online;

The majority of Mexicans (more than 70 percent) already have access to the Internet and this fact is changing the social, academic and economic environments. Health is not an exception. That is to say, 37 percent of Mexican Internet users over the age of 16 research their health symptoms online every week.

More than 27 million users are visiting health news websites every month in Mexico. It’s uncertain the quality or relevance of the answers that the patient is finding, but what is certain is that this behavior is changing the doctor-patient relationship forever: 9 out of 10 doctors say that the information previously found by the patient on the Internet changes the consult dynamics.

The most shocking finding is that 40 percent of doctors declare that the digital research, delivered by the patient, influences the choice of treatment; in other words, this trend is changing the prescription decision process made by the healthcare professional.

  1. Specialist doctors are starting to have virtual consults with patients whom they have never met face to face.

Telemedicine is a phenomenon in Mexico and more doctors are now open to this form of remote patient interaction. For the last two years, some health professionals have been forced to offer a virtual consultation due to the fact that their patients could not leave their homes but others use it as an opportunity to attend patients who live in other cities.

According to recent research, 45 percent of Mexican doctors include  virtual consults as part of their medical practice. This percentage varies between medical specialties; for instance, psychiatrists respond 94 percent, endocrinologists 77 percent and dermatologists 70 percent. The lowest incidence was detected among traumatologists, with only 33 percent, cardiologists 31 percent and gynecologists 27 percent. One of the possible explanations would be the type of diseases they treat that needs physical auscultation.

We can infer that the majority of the patients who use virtual consults are doing so as part of  follow-up on previous in-person visits with the doctor, but 21 percent of all physicians say that they are making this interaction with first-time patients; it is more visible with specialists because 5 out of 10 respond that they are doing the initial diagnosis through virtual consults.

  1. Social media is becoming more and more important for clinical decision-making.

The main online activities in Mexico are related to the use of instant messaging and social networks. Our country is among the most social enthusiastic when talking about social digital activities. It is proven that an average Mexican Internet user spends at about 3 hours, 17 minutes daily on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, among others. According to the time spent on social networks, Mexico ranks among  the Top 10 countries, spending 33% more time than the world average.

Mexican physicians follow this tendency on social networks: most declare that YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn are tools that they constantly use in their medical practice. Besides, they find it extremely useful to follow the social profiles of medical associations, medical journals and key scientific opinion leaders.

Social networks have a growing impact on patient treatment and follow-up because 44 percent of doctors recognize that their clinical decisions are influenced by the content visualized on social media.

  1. The doctor accepts more digital interactions than pharma companies currently offer.

For decades, it has been very important for the health industry to have a tight connection with the healthcare professional. Taking advantage of promotional activities, pharmaceutical  companies inform doctors about new treatments, drug characteristics and prescription requirements.

Most Mexican physicians pay close attention to personal interactions with industry representatives; nonetheless, a growing segment prefers digital channels: 44 percent like instant messaging, 30 percent email communication, and 22 percent mention that they would pay more attention to a visit from a virtual representative than any other interaction.

It is crucial that the pharma companies offer a digital presence aimed at healthcare professionals. The doctors have been clear in their preference: websites and instant messaging profiles as their main communication channels, with social media, emailing and podcasts taking a secondary role. 

An interesting opportunity for pharmaceutical companies is to offer medical education programs that integrate technology. Sixty-five percent of doctors prefer hybrid formats (remote and face-to-face) but among general doctors and specialists, such as gynecologists, endocrinologists and internists, the preference leaning  toward e-learning and virtual options.

There are more interesting findings in the report. You can consult and share them freely at https://medicodigital.ominis.org. If you need more details or you are interested in digging deeper about a certain medical specialty, geographic zone or age range, among other demographic criteria, please feel free to contact us for guidance about the options to use the complete study.

The medical practice is evolving and the digital transformation is here for the healthcare professional. Together, we can help accelerate this change because Mexican society will greatly benefit from it.

Photo by:   Enrique Culebro Karam

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