Physicians' Internet information-seeking behaviors

J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2004 Winter;24(1):31-8. doi: 10.1002/chp.1340240106.


Introduction: Our understanding about the role of the Internet as a resource for physicians has improved in the past several years with reports of patterns for use and measures of impact on medical practice. The purpose of this study was to begin to shape a theory base for more fully describing physicians' information-seeking behaviors as they apply to Internet use and applications for continuing education providers to more effectively support learning.

Methods: A survey about Internet use and physician information seeking was administered by facsimile transmission to a random sample of 3,347 physicians.

Results: Almost all physicians have access to the Internet, and most believe it is important for patient care. The most frequent use is in accessing the latest research on specific topics, new information in a disease area, and information related to a specific patient problem. Critical to seeking clinical information is the credibility of the source, followed by relevance, unlimited access, speed, and ease of use. Electronic media are viewed as increasingly important sources for clinical information, with decreased use of journals and local continuing medical education (CME). Barriers to finding needed information include too much information, lack of specific information, and navigation or searching difficulties.

Discussion: The Internet has become an important force in how physicians deliver care. Understanding more about physician information-seeking needs, behaviors, and uses is critical to CME providers to support a self-directed curriculum for each physician. A shift to increased use of electronic CME options points to new demands for users and providers. Specific information about how physicians create a question and search for resources is an area that requires providers to develop new skills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Computers*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Internet / trends
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires