Facilitating Physician Access to Medical Reference Information.

Facilitating Physician Access to Medical Reference Information.

Philip Bellman, MPH; Carol Havens, MD; Ysabel Bertolucci, MLS; Beth Streeter, MPH

Fall 2005 - Volume 9 Number 4



Context: Computer-based medical reference information is augmenting--and in some cases, replacing--many traditional sources. For Kaiser Permanente (KP) physicians, this change presents both advantages and obstacles to finding medical reference information.
Objective: To improve understanding of physician information-seeking behavior and the barriers that limit use of both print-based and computer-based medical reference resources.
Design: During 2002 and 2003, two quality-improvement surveys were distributed to full-time KP physicians. Survey instruments sent by conventional mail and by Email were based on results of telephone interviews and focus groups, and were designed to be concise and easy to use. Participant response rates exceeded 83%.
Outcomes Measures: The surveys examined physician use of online medical reference information, medical libraries and services, self-directed learning resources, and continuing medical education (CME).
Results: Of the physicians who responded to the survey, 89% used online resources frequently to enhance care, to inform clinical decisions, to update knowledge, to educate patients, or for a combination of these purposes. Compared with responses from older physicians, responses from younger physicians showed a greater proclivity for using nearly all types of online information. Most physicians obtained CME credits primarily through in-person education programs; few physicians used self-directed electronic learning tools. Obstacles to effective access to information included lack of time, overly complex access methods, and lack of awareness about available resources.
Conclusions: A considerable gap exists between physicians' need for information and the resources currently available for delivering this information. Although we observed a clear shift from using printed medical references to using computer-based resources, many barriers prevent their effective use. Clinicians need easy-to-use, seamless systems of medical reference information that are accessible remotely anytime.

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