How and Why Junior Physicians use Web 2.0

medicine 2.0

The answers:

  • 89% (32/35) of physicians used at least one Web 2.0 tool in their medical practice, with 80% (28/35) reporting the use of wikis, only one respondent contributed to web 2.0 making regular contribution to a medical wiki site
  • physicians checked for medical information on an average of 2.6 different sites a day, with 1.4 visits a day or 53% of the total (235/444) being to sites using user-generated or Web 2.0 content
  • most commonly visited sites were Google, used on 32% of all recorded cases (142/444) and by 80% (28/35) of all physicians, and Wikipedia in 26% (115/44) of cases and by 70% (25/35) of all physicians
  • 53% (235/444) of cases the information used was Web 2.0 content. Other content used was from traditional sites such as PubMed and hybrid sites such as which not only publishes peer reviewed content but also has blogs and rapid responses
  • The principle motivation for using the internet for information seeking was its ease of use, cited by 93% (33/35) of physicians
  • it had better information than alternatives such as medical textbooks (more up to date, covering more topics, and allowing extras such as interactive images)
  • the main reasons against using the Web 2.0 was the limits to information found (72% or 27/35 of physicians) such as quality and information overload
  • the purposes for which physicians used the Web were to solve an immediate defined problem and secondly, for background reading on a subject. The former being the use of the internet for simple clinical decision support, the latter as a tools for ongoing medical education that precipitated the use of Web 2.0.
  • Web 2.0 tools were strongly used for open questions (82% or 107/130 of search cases using Web 2.0) and hybrid or best evidence
    tools for closed questions (84% 90/107 of search cases using these tools).
  • 68% of physicians noted using Google as a navigation device, they already knew which content sites they would trust, and were using the search engine to get to the appropriate part of the site quickly.
  • The physicians noted that patients used Internet for information which could be discussed with their doctors
  • Physicians didn’t need technical skills for searching but need training in identifying trustworthy sites, have understanding of the quality of the information
  • Physicians complained about the lack of access, in some clinics Google was blocked based on the policy of the clinic in question

“Web 2.0” refers to what is perceived as a second generation of web development and web design. It is characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design[1] and collaboration on the World Wide Web. It has led to the development and evolution of web-based communities, hosted services, and web applications. Examples include social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups and folksonomies.

web 2.0 use

In short, junior physicians used web 2.0 tools because of the ease of use and accessibility and up to date information but they were also aware of the limitations in the quality or usefulness of information found. Web 2.0 tools were used for open questions to get background or overview information on a topic while more traditional tools were used for closed questions to get specific information or double check. Google was also used to identify and navigate known and trusted site.

Overall web 2.0 tools are used mostly for background questions instead of clinical decisions. Stilll some fears exists that due to the ease of use and breadth of information more use of web 2.0 tools will be made in the future. The researchers used junior physicians since they are more at ease using web 2.0 tools, are more competent in using the Internet than older physicians and they are our future doctors.

For me the most important conclusion is:

… ensuring physicians have the skills to determine what credible internet information is, and may require research to investigate what really constitutes sufficient steps to “validate” the accuracy of information found

Let’s hope our younger web savvy colleagues will in a later stage contribute to the medical content on the Internet.
Hughes, B., Joshi, I., Lemonde, H., & Wareham, J. (2009). Junior physician’s use of Web 2.0 for information seeking and medical education: A qualitative study International Journal of Medical Informatics DOI: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2009.04.008