Objectives: To determine information seeking behavior of physicians.
Data sources: Systematic review of 19 studies that described information seeking behavior in a number of different settings using differing methodologies. Analysis was limited to quantitative studies describing sources of information sought by physicians.
Results: Investigators have used questionnaires, interviews and observation to identify the information seeking behavior of clinicians. The results were mainly obtained from trials in the United States and showed a wide variation in primary information sources used by physicians. The most frequent source for information used are text sources, second is asking colleagues and only one study found electronic databases to be the primary resource. Physician's desk reference is the commonest cited printed resource. Convenience of access, habit, reliability, high quality, speed of use, and applicability makes information seeking likely to be successful and to occur. The lack of time to search, the huge amount of material, forgetfulness, the belief that there is likely to be no answer, and the lack of urgency all hinder the process of answering questions.
Conclusions: The wide variation in information seeking behavior implies a need for further categorization of information need and information sources. Careful planning of information delivery to physicians is required to enable them to keep up to date and to improve knowledge transfer.