Nursing home doctors appear reluctant to use mobile gadgets for help in prescribing drugs, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are saying.

Researchers surveyed hundreds of long term care doctors at an annual convention and asked them about whether, and how often, they used iPhones or other mobile devices for help in writing prescriptions for residents. “Fewer than half (42 percent) of the respondents indicated that they owned and used a mobile device for assisting with prescribing” in the nursing home.

Experts argue that smartphones and other hi-tech gadgets can help doctors in their rounds, particularly in looking up drug interactions and potential bad reactions to medicine. Those adverse drug events (ADEs) are associated with some 93,000 nursing home deaths and another $4 billion in excess health care costs per year.

“Mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), hand-held computers, table PCs, and smartphones, represent a potentially attractive alternative solution to prevent or mitigate ADEs without requiring extensive investment in software and hardware infrastructure,” lead researcher Steven Handler, MD, wrote for the team.

The research findings were reported in the December issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

Earlier surveys had found that up to 86 percent of doctors in other clinical settings used mobile devices for help in their rounds. But long term care doctors appeared to be behind their colleagues, Handler and his colleagues found.

In fact, the more veteran the long term care doctors were, the less likely they were to seek cellular help, the researchers found.

“Specifically, those with 15 or fewer years of clinical experience were 67 percent more likely to be mobile device users, compared with those with more than 15 years of clinical experience,” Handler wrote.

And the more time doctors spent in the nursing homes, the less likely they were to use mobile devices. Doctors who reported spending less than half of their time in long term care centers were 64 percent more likely to use the gadgets, compared with those who spent more than half of their time in the centers, Handler said.

For those doctors who are using the devices, though, they appear to be helpful: The doctors reported that they looked up one to two medicines per day, with 43 percent saying they looked up about six different medicines per day, Handler said.

The three most common mobile brands were Palm (31 percent), iPhone (30 percent) and Blackberry (25 percent), Handler wrote.