Internet-based information-seeking behaviour amongst doctors and nurses: a short review of the literature

Health Info Libr J. 2010 Mar;27(1):2-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2010.00883.x.


Background: Reviews of how doctors and nurses search for online information are relatively rare, particularly where research examines how they decide whether to use Internet-based resources. Original research into their online searching behaviour is also rare, particularly in real world clinical settings. as is original research into their online searching behaviour. This review collates some of the existing evidence, from 1995 to 2009.

Objectives: To establish whether there are any significant differences in the ways and reasons why doctors and nurses seek out online information; to establish how nurses and doctors locate information online; to establish whether any conclusions can be drawn from the existing evidence that might assist health and medical libraries in supporting users.

Methods: An initial scoping literature search was carried out on PubMed and CINAHL to identify existing reviews of the subject area and relevant original research between 1995 and 2009. Following refinement, further searches were carried out on Embase (Ovid), LISA and LISTA. Following the initial scoping search, two journals were identified as particularly relevant for further table of contents searching. Articles were exclused where the main focus was on patients searching for information or where the focus was the evaluation of online-based educational software or tutorials. Articles were included if they were review or meta-analysis articles, where they reported original research, and where the primary focus of the online search was for participants' ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The relevant articles are outlined, with details of numbers of participants, response rates, and the user groups.

Results: There appear to be no significant differences between the reasons why doctors and nurses seek online Internet-based evidence, or the ways in which they locate that evidence. Reasons for searching for information online are broadly the same: primarily patient care and CPD (Continuing Professional Development). The perceived barriers to accessing online information are the same in both groups. There is a lack of awareness of the library as a potential online information enabler.

Conclusions: Libraries need to examine their policy and practice to ensure that they facilitate access to online evidence-based information, particularly where users are geographically remote or based in the community rather than in a hospital setting. Librarians also need to take into account the fact that medical professionals on duty may not be able to take advantage of the academic model of online information research. Further research is recommended into the difference between the idealised academic model of searching and real world practicalities; and how other user groups search, for example patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Internet*
  • Nurses*
  • Physicians*