Objective: To determine what proportion of Australian neonatologists and obstetricians report using systematic reviews of randomised trials.
Design: Cross-sectional survey using structured telephone interviews.
Setting: Australian clinical practice in 1995.
Participants: 103 of the 104 neonatologists in Australia (defined as clinicians holding a position in a neonatal intensive care unit); a random sample of 145 members of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists currently practising in Australia.
Main outcome measures: Information sources used in clinical practice; reported awareness of, access to and use of systematic reviews, and consequent practice changes.
Results: Response rates were 95% (neonatologists) and 87% (obstetricians); 71 neonatologists (72%) and 55 obstetricians (44%) reported using systematic reviews, primarily for individual patient care. Databases of systematic reviews were used with a median frequency of once per month. Among neonatologists, systematic reviews were used more commonly by those who were familiar with computers, attended professional meetings, and had authored research papers. Among obstetricians, they were used more commonly by those who were familiar with computers, had less than 10 years' clinical experience, attended more deliveries, and were full-time staff specialists in public hospitals. Of neonatologists who reported using systematic reviews, 58% attributed some practice change to this use. For obstetricians, the corresponding figure was 80%.
Conclusions: There is evidence that Australian neonatologists and obstetricians use systematic reviews and modify their practice accordingly. Dissemination efforts can benefit from knowledge of factors that predict use of systematic reviews.