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Many rural primary care providers seek information to support patient care, but most still prefer print over online sources

Having current, evidence-based information available to answer clinical questions that occur during patient care is critical to providing high quality care. According to a study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13487), more than three-fourths (76 percent) of practitioners in a rural primary care practice-based research network (PBRN) seek information to support patient care at least several times per week from colleagues, print, or online resources (not including information on drug dosing or interactions). However, many (60 percent) never or almost never get evidence-based medicine information from online sources, such as the Cochrane library.

Kevin A. Pearce, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Kentucky, and coinvestigators surveyed every primary care practitioner who was a member of the Kentucky Ambulatory Network about their knowledge and use of medical online and print information resources. Of the 59 survey respondents, 58 percent stated that they sought information to support patient care several times per week, 18 percent daily, 22 percent rarely, and 2 percent never; and most (68 percent) did this while the patient waited.

Almost 40 percent of respondents never or almost never performed literature searches from online sources such as MEDLINE®, although 44 percent said they did so a few times per month. Half (50 percent) sought drug information on the Internet a few times a week or daily. When asked about print resources, 61 percent of clinicians used drug references such as the Physicians Desk Reference, 58 percent used medical textbooks, 48 percent used handbooks or manuals, and 42 percent used print journals a few times a week or daily. Practitioners cited lack of time (76 percent), cost (33 percent), format of information sources (22 percent), and information-seeking skills (25 percent) as the main barriers to seeking health information.

See "Information-seeking behaviors of practitioners in a primary care practice-based research network (PBRN)," by James E. Andrews, Ph.D., Dr. Pearce, Carol Ireso, Ph.D., and Margaret M. Love, Ph.D., in the April 2005 Journal of the Medical Library Association 93(2), pp. 206-212.

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