Aim: To determine self-reported access to and use of the Internet and the Cochrane Library by general practitioners (GPs) in New Zealand.
Methods: A national cross sectional postal and fax survey of randomly selected GPs.
Results: A total of 381 of 459 eligible GPs returned completed questionnaires (83%). The mean age of this sample was 45.7 years (SD 8.6) and average years in general practice was 15.7 years (SD 8.8 years). 74% (277) were male and 77% (289) in full-time practice. Internet access was present in 40% (95% CI 36-46%) of practices and 76% (72-81%) of GP's homes. The majority, 56% (51-61%), of GPs had used the Internet with regard to a patient. Younger GPs (<35 years old OR = 2.69, 95% CI 1.10-6.60) and male GPs (OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.02-2.90) were significantly more likely to report use of the Internet with respect to patients. 42% (95% CI 37-47%) of GPs were aware of the Cochrane Library but only 15% (11-19%) had used it. Those in group practice were more likely to be aware of the Cochrane database (adjusted OR 1.85, CI 1.09-3.12).
Conclusions: Internet use is prevalent among GPs. Solo practitioners, older GPs and female GPs are least likely to avail themselves of this resource. Although half of GPs knew about Cochrane, a minority used it. Access and use of evidence databases can be improved in New Zealand. Strategies to assist those least likely already to use Cochrane may help our collective efforts towards evidence based practice.