By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
August 5, 2009

Healthcare professionals would seem a natural market for smartphones, especially if the Obama administration makes good its campaign promise to computerize U.S. health care records.

But which smartphone will doctors and nurses be using?

Software Advice, an Austin-based resource for software buyers, tried to answer that question last week. In what it admits was not a “super-scientific” survey, it e-mailed a questionnaire to 700 healthcare professionals and processed 71 replies. The results, released on Tuesday, show an interesting mix of preferences that vary according to job description.

Doctors, nurses and and students showed a strong preference for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone. IT professionals, who seem to have sampled a wider range of devices, also preferred the iPhone, but not as strongly. Health administrators — at least the ones who replied to the survey — were unanimous in their preference for Research in Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry. The Palm (PALM) Pre was a strong second among students.

As the report notes, “most people, regardless of brand, were satisfied with their phones.” The Pre and Google (GOOG) Android phones were the only devices to get 100% ratings from their users. The iPhone scored somewhere in the 90s, Microsoft (MSFT)‘s Windows Mobile in the 60s, and the BlackBerry around 50% — equally divided between satisfied and not satisfied. (See below.)

Finally, the Software Advice report compared what health professionals are currently doing with their smartphones with what they hope to do in the future. The only health-related activity in wide use today is prescription drug reference, thanks no doubt to the popularity of the Epocrates app, which runs in various versions on the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm and Windows Mobile devices.

But in the future, as Obama and these health professionals see it, smartphones could be used for a wide variety of tasks, including tracking patients, ordering lab tests, viewing X-rays and CAT scans, making clinical decisions and “e-prescribing” drugs. See charts below:

Six out of 10 doctors isn’t a bad result for Apple. On the other hand, a quick Google search reveals that six out of 10 doctors also recommend the wrong treatment for infants with milk allergies, don’t understand how private health plans work and smoke Camel cigarettes — or at least they used to.

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