Demographic characteristics of surveyed dentists in China
A total of 379 valid responses were received. Study subjects had a median age of 33.6 years old (range: 19– 59 years old), and 240 (63.3%) subjects were female. 168 (44.3%) subjects worked in public hospital, and 211 (55.7) subjects worked in private hospital or clinic. Additionally, 47.2% subjects were resident dentists, 40.4% were dentists in charge, and 12.4% were senior or associate senior dentists. All subjects (100%) owned a smartphone. The most popular brands of smartphone were Apple (46.2%) and Huawei (34%, Table 2).
The use of Wechat or QQ in dentists’ clinical work
All participants installed Wechat or QQ on their smartphones, and they all used WeChat or QQ in their clinical practices. Participants reported their main purposes of using WeChat or QQ in clinical practice were acquiring medical information (84.2%), communicating with peers (83.6%) and communicating with patients (77.6%). Frequency of using WeChat or QQ in clinical practice was reported to be at least once a day (73.6%), at least once a week (20.8%), or less than once a month (5.5%, Table 3). The time of daily usage was shown in Table 3. 25.9% subjects used WeChat or QQ in clinical practice more than 60 minutes per day, 19% subjects reported their daily use time was 21-30 minutes, 17.4% subjects was 11-20 minutes.
The use of medical apps in dentists’ clinical work
288 (76%) subjects installed medical app (except Wechat and QQ) on their smartphones, and 91 (24%) subjects didn’t installed any medical app, as shown in Table 4. Male dentists would like to install medical apps than female dentists (chi-square = 6.702, p < 0.05). With the increasing of age, the percentage of dentists to install medical apps was decreasing (chi-square = 45.3.3, p < 0.001). However, dentists’ workplace and medical rank were not associated with the installment of medical apps significantly (chi-square = 1.670, p = 0.196; chi-square = 5.466, p = 0.065, respectively, Table 5). Among the 288 subjects, the average number of medical apps was 2.62±1.73 (range: 1-12). Most subjects (71.5%) reported they installed 1-5 medical apps on their smartphones, only 0.5% subjects installed more than 10 medical apps on their smartphones (Table 4). The frequency and daily use (in minutes) of these medical apps among dentists was shown in Table 6. 46.5% subjects used medical apps at least once a day, 42.4% subjects used them at least once a week, and 11.1% used less than once a month. About the daily use, the largest number was 11-20 minutes (31.6%) per day, followed by 11-10 minutes (29.2%) and 21-30 minutes (15.6%). Only 5.2% subjects reported they used medical apps more than 60 minutes per day (Table 6). The top three purposes of using medical apps were reviewing medical knowledge (63.6%), reading medical news (36.4%), and reading medical journals (27.9%, Table 7).
Perceptions of smartphone based medical apps and their impacts on clinical practice
The majority of subjects strongly agreed or agreed that they are looking to obtain more medical apps in the future (1.52 ± 0.69), they would recommend these medical apps to other peers (1.67 ± 0.68), medical apps are essential tools for undergraduate medical studies (1.91 ± 0.78), and medical apps supplement medical textbooks (1.83 ± 0.64). As for whether medical apps are superior to medical textbooks (3.16 ± 0.81) or medical apps can replace medical textbooks (3.31 ± 0.94), the majority subjects reported disagreement or not sure. 46.2% subjects agreed that there are dangers in using medical apps for patient care, and 39.6% subjects were not sure about this question (2.61 ± 0.73, Table 8).
The majority of subjects agreed that medical apps could improve clinical decision making (2.30 ± 0.77), save time (2.11 ± 0.68), help in making differential diagnoses (2.56 ± 0.74), and perform useful medical-related calculations (2.52 ± 0.77). Additionally, medical apps were thought to be beneficial for allowing faster access to evidence-based medical practice/case (2.34 ± 0.80), reliable sources of clinical skills (2.25 ±0.67), reliable sources of medical knowledge (2.19 ± 0.68), common laboratory reference values (2.30 ± 0.65), and medical information (1.90 ± 0.54, Table 9).