Searching for medical information online: a survey of Canadian nephrologists

J Nephrol. 2011 Nov-Dec;24(6):723-32. doi: 10.5301/JN.2011.6373.


Background: Physicians often search for information to improve patient care. We evaluated how nephrologists use online information sources for this purpose.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study (2008 to 2010), a random sample of Canadian nephrologists completed a survey of their online search practices. We queried respondents on their searching preferences, practices and use of 9 online information sources.

Results: Respondents (n=115; 75% response rate) comprised both academic (59%) and community-based (41%) nephrologists. Respondents were an average of 48 years old and were in practice for an average of 15 years. Nephrologists used a variety of online sources to retrieve information on patient treatment including UpToDate (92%), PubMed (89%), Google (76%) and Ovid MEDLINE (55%). Community-based nephrologists were more likely to consult UpToDate first (91%), while academic nephrologists were divided between UpToDate (58%) and PubMed (41%). When searching bibliographic resources such as PubMed, 80% of nephrologists scan a maximum of 40 citations (the equivalent of 2 search pages in PubMed). Searching practices did not differ by age, sex or years in practice.

Conclusions: Nephrologists routinely use a variety of online resources to search for information for patient care. These include bibliographic databases, general search engines and specialized medical resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MEDLINE / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Medical Informatics / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrology*
  • Online Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • PubMed / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Search Engine / statistics & numerical data