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Doctors Lag in Use of Internet - Especially With Patients

According to a new study from FIND/SVP, the Internet, e-mail, and CD-ROM are seen by healthcare professionals as important tools to help keep costs in line without affecting the quality of patient care.

The study, the 1997 American Interactive Healthcare Professionals Survey, found that one-half of all physicians and healthcare executives look to improved information access and peer-to-peer communications as major benefits of these interactive technologies.

A key finding of the study is the identification of an "interactive technology lag factor" within the healthcare industry - physicians are slower to adopt most new media than healthcare executives are;

particularly e-mail, CD-ROM, and the Internet.

One particular focus of the study is physicians' use of the Internet. Today, 43 percent of all physicians report that they use the Internet for professional purposes, whether at home or at work. However, the

study also identified the use of the "Technology Proxy," someone else who goes online on behalf of a particular physician; as reported by 26% of physicians.

Even so, FIND/SVP estimates that 61 percent of physicians will be using the Internet for professional purposes by mid- to late-1998. However, this growth is likely to be slowed if any of the major Internet

paradoxes found in the study are not resolved. One paradox is that while physicians believe that the Internet is a great source of business and clinical information, they are not confident that online

information is accurate, timely, relevant, or objective. Another paradox is that while physicians are clear about the benefits of the Internet for themselves, they are much less sure that the Internet is

valuable to their patients. While 57 percent of physicians see the Internet as a valuable professional-to-professional communications tool, only 34 percent see any benefit in professional-to-patient communications.

The 1997 American Interactive Healthcare Professionals Survey includes data on physicians' and healthcare executives' use of 6 key technologies: PCs, mobile communications, e-mail, CD-ROM, videoconferencing, and the Internet. It also includes special sections detailing physicians' use of interactive technologies in continuing medical education, patient education, and telemedicine. More information about the survey can be found at