Background: Web-based medical service provision is increasingly becoming common. However, it remains unclear how physicians are responding to this trend and how Web-based and offline medical services are linked.Objective: The objectives of this study were to examine physicians’ use of mobile medical apps for sexually transmitted disease (STD) consultations and identify the physicians who frequently use mobile medical apps to evaluate patients with STD.Methods: In August 2017, we conducted a nationwide cross-sectional survey among physicians registered on a mobile medical app in China. We collected data on physicians’ demographic information, institutional information, and Web-based medical practices. We compared physicians who used mobile medical apps to evaluate patients with STD frequently (at least once a week) with infrequent users. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions were used to identify physicians who frequently evaluated patients with STD on mobile medical apps.Results: A total of 501 physicians participated in the survey. Among them, three-quarters were men and the average age was 37.6 (SD 8.2) years. Nearly all physicians (492/501, 98.2%) recommended their last Web-based patient with STD to subsequently see a physician in the clinic. More than half (275/501, 54.9%) of physicians recommended STD testing to Web-based patients, and 43.9% (220/501) provided treatment advice to patients with STD. Of all physicians, 21.6% (108/501) used mobile medical apps to evaluate patients with STD through Web more than once a week. Overall, 85.2% (427/501) physicians conducted follow-up consultation for patients with STD using mobile medical apps. Physicians working at institutions with STD prevention materials were associated with frequent evaluation of patients with STD on mobile medical apps (adjusted odds ratio=2.10, 95% CI 1.18-3.74).Conclusions: Physicians use mobile medical apps to provide a range of services, including Web-based pre-and posttreatment consultations and linkage to offline clinical services. The high rates of referral to clinics suggest that mobile medical apps are used to promote clinic-seeking, and not replace it. Physicians’ use of mobile medical apps could benefit sexual minorities and others who avoid formal clinic-based services.
- Mobile app
- Mobile phone