Purpose: To identify the perceptions, attitudes, and usage patterns of US physicians regarding online professional medical education.
Method: A multimethod approach was used to assess perceptions, attitudes, barriers to and usage patterns of US physicians regarding online professional medical education. This approach included a literature review, four structured focus group sessions, and survey tool. Responses to the survey were obtained from 500 US practicing physicians across 10 specialties between February 9, 2009 and February 13, 2009. Respondents received a small honorarium for their input.
Result: Of the 500 respondents 67% of physicians go online for clinical information at least once a day, and 27% of the CME credits earned in 2008 were obtained online. Due to usefulness, physicians were most likely to visit Medscape or UpToDate . The most important factors for physicians when deciding on an online educational activity were convenience and credibility of the content, and physicians felt that referencing CME content to clinical evidence was the most important feature in establishing the credibility of an online CME activity. Physicians rated applying content to practice and content that focuses on the types of patients that they see most frequently as the most important characteristics of online CME. Physicians cited payment for access to content, the inability to find specific answers to their questions, and registration for site access as a very significant barrier to accessing online medical information. Physicians reported that online access has changed the way they keep up-to-date by increasing the convenience of information and providing quicker access to up-to-date information.
Conclusion: Physicians seek information online on a regular basis because they want quick, convenient access to relevant evidence-based information. They are most likely to visit a website for clinical information if the site does not require registration and payment for access. Educational programs that allow in-demand access, reference content to clinical evidence, and present content that is directly translatable to practice are very likely to be used by physicians. This study was supported by Genentech.