Internet Web-based Materials in Family Medicine Education: A National Survey
OBJECTIVE: To determine family residents' actual experience with and desired exposure to computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), the Internet, and Web-based information for clinical and educational activities. METHODS: Programs listed in the American Academy of Family Physicians 2002 directory of Family Practice Residency Programs were divided into five categories based on affiliation and structure of the residency program. The 456 programs were community based (CB), community based and medical school affiliated (CBMSAF), community based and medical school administered (CBMSAD), medical school based (MS), and military. Random samples of programs within each of the first four categories were selected to participate in the study. Military programs were excluded. A total of 312 programs were selected: CB (24), CBMSAF (159), CBMSAD (73), and MS (56). A survey packet containing a 14-item questionnaire for each resident and a letter of explanation regarding the study was mailed to 312 randomly selected programs. Residents reported on their own access to computers and PDAs at home and in the office, their use of the Internet for personal use and clinical information, and their preferences for accessing information currently provided at teaching conferences, for national board exam preparation, and at clinical point-of-care. RESULTS: The CBMSAF returned 600 surveys (49.3%); CD returned 60 surveys (4.8%); CBMSAD returned 300 surveys (25.5%); MS returned 240 surveys (20.4%). For statistical analysis, the CBMSAF and CB were combined into "community centric," and the CBMSAD and MS were combined into "medical school centric" program types. Most residents have access to the Internet, a home computer, and a PDA. There is a statistically significant difference in self-reported Web search skills between community centric and medical school centric residents, but this difference disappears when residents are asked if they are able to find clinically useful information during their Web searches. CONCLUSION: Family practice residents' access to the Internet and computer-based information is very well established. There is a disconnect between the number of residents that report advanced Web search skills and those who report finding clinically useful information. This has implications for teaching residents how to better use Internet-based resources.