Doctors on-line: using diffusion of innovations theory to understand internet use

Fam Med. 2004 Oct;36(9):645-50.


Background and objectives: Family physicians must be aware of the latest and best evidence for a broad range of clinical and public health topics. The Internet is an important source of this information, but not all family physicians use the Internet. This study used "diffusion of innovations" theory to identify strategies for increasing Internet use by family physicians.

Methods: We conducted a mail survey of 58 family physicians in a midsized Northeastern metropolitan area in the United States to assess Internet use and identify sources from which physicians obtain medical information. We then used diffusion of innovations theory to describe the process by which physicians learn and develop skills at using the Internet.

Results: Internet use begins when physicians are not constrained by a heavy patient volume and are able to learn about and observe the benefits of Internet use. When they experience its usefulness, their Internet browsing and searching develop and become more effortless and less time-consuming.

Conclusions: The innovation attributes of diffusion of innovations theory act as predictors of Internet use among family physicians. Internet use by family physicians might be increased by providing them time to learn about how to use it and to experience its benefits. Integration of continuing medical education courses created for the purpose of developing and enhancing Internet usage skills into their schedule may be a workable solution. Demographic factors such as gender and training recency have no influence on Internet use by family physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Computers
  • Computer Literacy
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • United States