The current evaluation has illustrated how information-searching behaviors changed among main healthcare professionals. We characterized trends in the search of medical information across the nationwide regional hospitals of Taiwan, using data from 3 national surveys conducted with main healthcare professionals in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Coupled with these three surveys we showed a growth in the use of Internet-based resources. The data suggest that there has been a sustained effect following the dissemination of EBM implementation during the 4-year study period,
To our knowledge, this study is the first to examine national trends in sources of medical information. The results highlight that the Internet has become an increasingly important source of medical information, which is consistent with recent research findings indicating that the Internet has become the most common source of medical information [3, 24]. Internet-based resources can provide easy access to reduce barriers, such as physical distance from a library. In our study, medical information in which main healthcare professionals looked for has shifted to electronic media gradually.
Our study demonstrated a high level of usage with the Web portals. The use of Web portals increased steadily across the 3 survey years. Searching for medical information through Web portals has both advantages and disadvantages. Although Web portals are a convenient and easily accessible source of medical information, challenges regarding the quality and credibility of medical information exist. With the advent of Web portals (such as the development of Google Scholar), the quality of searching has been improving [25, 26]. Nevertheless, online databases are still more practical for retrieving evidence-based search results than Web portals . Familiarity with evidence-based sites is essential for healthcare providers in order to improve the quality of medical care. Our previous study showed increasing access of online evidence retrieval systems among physicians and nurses after a 2-year promotion of EBM . The current survey has further extended the inquiry by demonstrating a sustaining increase in the utilization of four Internet-based resources over 4-year period. We found that not only increased usage of Internet-based resources in general, but also the trend applied to all 8 popular online EBM databases. During our study period, NHRI offered free access to the Cochrane Library to promote EBM dissemination [11, 27]. Nevertheless, both physicians and nurses used a variety of databases to look for medical information rather than using the Cochrane Library alone. In addition, our study demonstrated that the increased usage of online database was proportional to that of Web portals. We found the majority of physicians and nurses used the online database for self-learning or clinical practice [28, 29]. However, we did not know why they accessed the Web portals. Further studies are needed to verify the difference in the motivation of usage between online database and Web portals.
In our study population, electronic journals have replaced printed journals as the most commonly used resource when looking for medical information. With the advance of medical informatics, the number of electronic books and journals is increasing exponentially. In addition, access to Web portals and online databases can enhance the utilization of electronic journals and electronic books. Folb et al. reported that healthcare professionals regarded convenience as the most important factor for accessing printed or electronic formats at times of need . These data suggest electronic resources have become more important for healthcare professionals when searching for medical information.
Differences in the backgrounds between physicians and nurses may lead to different behaviors of information searching through the Internet. In this study, both groups were increasingly using the Internet to find answers to clinical questions. However, their demographic predictors of access to Internet-based resources were somewhat different. First, gender and working period were significant factors in relation to the usage of Web portals among physicians only, while in nursing profession, it was not significant. Second, academic degree carried more significance in nurses than in physicians. Third, age and faculty position were important factors of usage for both physicians and nurses; this finding is in accordance with previous studies [20, 30]. And, fourth, electronic books were less associated with the personal characteristics which was similar to a report showing that use of electronic books was not related to users’ personal profiles . By distinguishing these characteristics, educational providers could devise better strategies to enhance their utilization. For example, physicians and nurses with senior age or without faculty position need more educational programs and interventions to prompt online utilization. In our study, the other personal characteristics – such as gender and working period – carried less significant influence in the usage. These results can provide stakeholders and promoters with valuable information to increase access to evidence-based information.
This study has several limitations common to survey research, such as potential biases from the incomplete response and self-reported method. We cannot be sure that these self-reported changes were fully translated into actual behaviors. In addition, some methodological issues should be considered in this study. First, we modified the sampling method in the 2009 and 2011 surveys to collect more questionnaires from nurses. Nevertheless, we believe the influence of this alteration was minimal because of high similarity of demographic backgrounds across the three questionnaire surveys. Second, our study did not take other factors which have enabled Internet health information searching into account. For instance, the influences of institutional characteristics on the participants, such as their own organizational change, were not determined. Third, this study did not examine the impact of such changes on clinical practice. Further studies are necessary to determine the usage of Internet-related resources in the improvement of patient outcome.