Skip navigation

Why doctors use the Internet

Clinical bottom line

Doctors use the Internet a lot, and a number of them would use it more if they had more skills.


Reference

K Masters. For what purpose and reasons do doctors use the Internet: a systematic review. International Journal of Medical Informatics 2006 doi:10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2006.10.002

Background

The Internet has been with us for just over a decade. Medical use has exploded, as with other use. But what drives doctors to use the Internet? A number of surveys have been published, and this systematic review pulls them together.

Systematic review

Searching to end 2004 was for studies of doctors use of the Internet, using a wide electronic search strategy, and from references. From the individual studies, various types of information were extracted.

Results

Thirty-five articles on 38 studies were finally chosen, surveying 48,615 doctors. The majority of studies were from the USA (23), and English-speaking countries (USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand) predominated with 32 studies and about 44,000 doctors.

Overall doctors had between 48% to 98% connectivity, and were often much more likely to have Internet access than their country as a whole. Overall, about 82% of doctors had an email account, and half used the Internet at least weekly.

Most specific activities revolved around retrieval of papers, either through specific searching or accessing online journals.

The factors discouraging Internet use tended to be time pressure, or cost, but the problem of too much information being confusing, and lack of skills, were major factors.

Comment

There is not much in this review that would surprise anyone. Doctors use the Internet a lot, and a number of them would use it more if they had more skills.