Background: Within the medical community there is persistent debate as to whether the information available through social media is trustworthy and valid, and whether physicians are ready to adopt these technologies and ultimately embrace them as a format for professional development and lifelong learning.
Objective: To identify how physicians are using social media to share and exchange medical information with other physicians, and to identify the factors that influence physicians' use of social media as a component of their lifelong learning and continuing professional development.
Methods: We developed a survey instrument based on the Technology Acceptance Model, hypothesizing that technology usage is best predicted by a physician's attitudes toward the technology, perceptions about the technology's usefulness and ease of use, and individual factors such as personal innovativeness. The survey was distributed via email to a random sample of 1695 practicing oncologists and primary care physicians in the United States in March 2011. Responses from 485 physicians were analyzed (response rate 28.61%).
Conclusions: Based on the results of this study, the use of social media applications may be seen as an efficient and effective method for physicians to keep up-to-date and to share newly acquired medical knowledge with other physicians within the medical community and to improve the quality of patient care. Future studies are needed to examine the impact of the meaningful use of social media on physicians' knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors in practice.