Internet research used more by UK doctors

UK doctors appear to be more willing to take an evidence-based approach and seek information on the internet than their overseas counterparts, research shows.

The internet search engine Google is by far the most popular way of finding medical information among doctors, even compared to dedicated online medicine data services such as Medline, Cochrane or Bandolier.

“I can’t condemn [Google],” said Dr Ade Adeodu. “It’s a fantastic resource if used appropriately with regard to its limitations.” He said services like Medline were more appropriate for many, but less easy to use.

Adeodu said that concerns about autonomy were unfounded as the evidence-based guidelines were there to assist decisions rather than to be prescriptive. Regarding legal concerns, Adeodu said: “I’m certain that the one who has followed the guidelines will be in a better position than the one who hasn’t.”

Text books are not recommended for evidence-based guidelines as they are often out of date, said Adeodu.

A survey by Adeodu found that while 53% of overseas doctors saw evidence-based guidelines as driven by cost-cutting rather than quality, only 34% in the UK shared their concern. The gap was similar regarding other concerns about evidence-based guidelines, including the increased potential for litigation, reduced autonomy for doctors, and the impracticality of accessing the evidence.

Concerns about the time needed to find the evidence could be addressed by better online search skills, he said. “Inefficient search strategies take up more time – lack of time is the biggest barrier to the take-up of evidence-based medicine,” said Adeodu. He recommended training as a solution, potentially through online training modules which have proved effective in studies.

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