GP trainees' in-consultation information-seeking: associations with human, paper and electronic sources

Fam Pract. 2015 Oct;32(5):525-32. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv047. Epub 2015 Jun 18.


Background: Answering clinical questions arising from patient care can improve that care and offers an opportunity for adult learning. It is also a vital component in practising evidence-based medicine. GPs' sources of in-consultation information can be human or non-human (either hard copy or electronic).

Objectives: To establish the prevalence and associations of GP trainees' in-consultation information-seeking, and to establish the prevalence of use of different sources of information (human, hard copy and electronic) and the associations of choosing particular sources.

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of data (2010-13) from an ongoing cohort study of Australian GP trainees' consultations. Once each 6-month training term, trainees record detailed data of 60 consecutive consultations. The primary outcome was whether the trainee sought in-consultation information for a problem/diagnosis. Secondary outcomes were whether information-seeking was from a human (GP, other specialist or other health professional) or from a non-human source (electronic or hard copy), and whether a non-human source was electronic or hard copy.

Results: Six hundred forty-five trainees (response rate 94.3%) contributed data for 84,723 consultations including 131,583 problems/diagnoses. In-consultation information was sought for 15.4% (95% confidence interval=15.3-15.6) of problems/diagnoses. Sources were: GP in 6.9% of problems/diagnoses, other specialists 0.9%, other health professionals 0.6%, electronic sources 6.5% and hard-copy sources 1.5%. Associations of information-seeking included younger patient age, trainee full-time status and earlier training stage, longer consultation duration, referring the patient, organizing follow-up and generating learning goals. Associations of choosing human information sources (over non-human sources) were similar, but also included the trainee's training organization. Associations of electronic rather than hard-copy information-seeking included the trainee being younger, the training organization and information-seeking for management rather than diagnosis.

Conclusion: Trainee information-seeking is mainly from GP colleagues and electronic sources. Human information-sources are preferentially sought for more complex problems, even by these early-career GPs who have trained in the 'internet era'.

Keywords: Australia; evidence-based medicine; family practice; general practitioners; information seeking behaviour; internet; internship and residency; primary health care..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • General Practice / education*
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Internship and Residency
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Problem Solving
  • Reference Books, Medical