Internet use on the rise

May 1, 2006

National report - While Internet use is expanding across theboard, dermatologists in private practice appear to rely moreheavily on the Internet than do their academic counterparts,according to a recent study.

National report - While Internet use is expanding across the board, dermatologists in private practice appear to rely more heavily on the Internet than do their academic counterparts, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that overall, the Internet represented the preferred source for obtaining clinical information, while respondents used textbooks and journals less frequently. Moreover, 51 percent of community physicians reported that the Internet is the information source they use most frequently, versus 29 percent of academics (p= 0.033).

"In general, dermatologists' comfort level with the Internet is clearly growing" as physicians' initial concerns have given way to the realization that dermatology is, by nature, a highly visual specialty, she adds.

Some question conclusions

However, some sources question the survey's conclusions.

"It is not plausible to believe that academicians use the Internet less than private practitioners," says Robert T. Brodell, M.D., professor of internal medicine, dermatology section, Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine.

Perhaps more importantly, Dr. Brodell says, "If an academician can go to grand rounds conveniently every week, he may use this source of information more than the Internet, but still use the Internet more frequently than (does) the community-based doctor." For example, he says the academician might use the Internet 10 times daily, but still feel grand rounds is his or her main source of useful clinical information.

"That's a good point,"Dr. Carr says. In the academic setting, she says, "One has many more people with whom to discuss diagnoses or complicated cases," often including colleagues with specialized training in pediatric dermatology, Mohs surgery and cosmetic treatments.

Confidence a barrier

Perhaps more telling was the conclusion that 89 percent of community physicians indicated that confidence in their ability to use the Internet was a barrier, versus 10 percent of academic dermatologists. Additionally, of those who said confidence in their ability to use the Internet was a barrier, 70 percent were over 45.