CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type



Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven D Zink

Committee Member

Marlyn Littman

Committee Member

Maxine S Cohen


electronic, Information, literacy, online, physician, resource


In the recent past, physicians found answers to questions by consulting colleagues, textbooks, and professional journals. Now, the availability of medical information through electronic resources has changed physician information-seeking behaviors. Evidence-based medicine is now the accepted decision-making paradigm, and a physician's ability to locate best practice guidelines through electronic information resources has become an essential skill. As physicians struggle to stay current in the wake of an ever-growing volume of medical information, several electronic resources claim to provide one-stop access to the most current information with correct and complete answers to problems encountered in the practice of health care. The complexity of medical information, however, prevents one resource from meeting all of a physician's information needs.

The research described here sought to identify which resources physicians used to find answers for a particular area of inquiry, identify the appropriateness of their resource selection, and compare the choices with their satisfaction with their results. A questionnaire was e-mailed to a randomized group of family practice physicians asking them to indicate which resources they use to answer questions that arise within their professional practice. Physicians were also asked to rate the attributes of these resources. Their responses revealed that physicians do not always select the correct resource and are not necessarily confident even when they do select the correct resource.

Physicians did not demonstrate a global overview of the strengths and weaknesses of information resources, but rather, consistently chose the same resources in approximately the same order regardless of the information they were seeking. The results of this study indicate that physicians do not understand the scope and capabilities of the resources they are using. This research has produced recommended guidelines to provide health information professionals with a course of action to restructure physician training. These guidelines cover such concepts as vetting a resource, selecting the correct resource for a topic of interest, when to partner with an information professional, an overview of the resources their patients may be using, and a synopsis of other features to support information literacy.

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