Physicians and the Internet

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Recommended reading from Anne Taylor-Vaisey: Podichetty VK, Booher J, Whitfield M, Biscup RS. Assessment of Internet use and effects among healthcare professionals: a cross sectional survey. Postgrad Med J 2006 Apr;82(966):274-9.


PURPOSE: Several studies have explored the scientific platforms on patient use of the internet for health information. In contrast physicians' perspective on evolving internet environment is lacking. The purpose of this study is to assess and correlate the extent of internet use among healthcare professionals and examine its effects on clinical practice.


METHODS: Cross sectional survey conducted in the USA using questionnaires distributed randomly to healthcare professionals attending distinct continuing medical education programmes between 2003 and 2004. Multiple choice and yes/no questions related to the trends of internet use and its effects on clinical practice were extracted and responses analysed. The main outcome measures are self reported rates of internet use, perceived effects, and the role of medical web sites in clinical practice.


RESULTS: The overall response rate was 60%. A total of 277 survey respondents (97%) had internet access. Some 7% in private practice and 1% of group practice physicians did not have internet access. Most (71%) used the internet regularly for medical or professional updating and 62% (n = 178) felt the need for sharing web sites designed for healthcare professionals with patients. Some 27% of the physicians currently own established personal practice web sites. Sixty three per cent have recommended a web site to a patient for more information, matching the positive trust (>70%) on the general quality of selected medical web sites.


CONCLUSION: This cross sectional survey shows that internet use and web based medical information is widely popular among physicians and patients. About 23%-31% of the healthcare professionals report >80% interaction with web informed patients in their daily practice.

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