October 21, 1998

Medical Information on the Internet

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine (Drs Hubbs and Melmon), Lane Medical Library (Mr Rindfleisch), Office of Postgraduate Medical Education (Drs Godin and Melmon), Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.

JAMA. 1998;280(15):1363. doi:10.1001/jama.280.15.1363

The continually changing and expanding body of medical information is increasingly difficult to master. In 1985, Covell and colleagues1 documented the obstacles physicians face using books and print media as sources of information in practice. Thirteen years later, there are 9.2 million MEDLINE citations with approximately 31000 more added each month.2 Combined with the psychological, sociological, and administrative complexities of medical practice, this rapid proliferation of information pressures physicians to make decisions at the margin of what they remember and know. Compounding this problem, changes in health care delivery require practitioners to make more important and complex decisions in less time. Physicians' trouble in applying current health care evidence effectively3,4 will almost certainly worsen given these trends. Weed5 calls this failure to use current health care evidence in the practice of medicine "avoidable ignorance."

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