Objectives: To determine doctors' reasons for using the Internet, and the factors that influence their usage. Data sources: A systematic review of 38 studies, from 1994 to 2004, describing surveys of doctors' Internet usage. Results: All of the studies were in the developed world, primarily in North America. Approximately 60-70% of doctors have access to the Internet, but in several studies access is more than 90%. Access is steadily increasing. Most Internet activity focuses on email and searching in journals and databases, but there is a very wide range of activities. Professional email with colleagues and patients is low, but increasing. The major factors discouraging usage are time, workload and cost, while too much information, liability issues and lack of skills also feature as discouraging factors. Factors encouraging use are unclear, but overall patient satisfaction and belief in improved service delivery, time saving and demand from patients are factors. There is a trend that males use the Internet more than females, young more than old, and specialists more than generalists, but these differences are not across the board, and show variations between studies. Conclusion: In spite of the limitations, it is clear that doctors are highly connected to the Internet, and their professional usage is increasing. Factors encouraging and discouraging usage are more complex than simple connectivity. Usage differences between demographic groups do exist, but are equalising. More and consistent research is required in this area.
- World Wide Web (WWW)
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