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E-Journals and Online Information
June 5, 2002

Awareness of Sources of Peer-Reviewed Research Evidence on the Internet

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation; and Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario.

JAMA. 2002;287(21):2867-2869. doi:10.1001/jama.287.21.2867

Context Peer-reviewed research evidence that was once available only to clinicians is now posted on the Internet and accessible to everyone, but levels of awareness of this evidence among patients and clinicians is not known.

Methods Cross-sectional survey, conducted from July 1998 through January 2000, of cancer patients (n = 1998), their family physicians (n = 871), and all oncologists (n = 30) and oncology nurses (n = 44) at the Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre, Hamilton, Ontario. Comparisons made between and within groups to examine use of the Internet by patients and clinicians to find health information, and their awareness of organizations using Internet-based resources to promote evidence-based decision making.

Results Response rates were 72%, 44%, 97%, and 84% for patients, family physicians, oncologists, and nurses, respectively; 47% of patients, 64% of family physicians, 100% of oncologists, and 72% of nurses reported that they used the Internet. Few patients were aware of the existence of the Cochrane Collaboration (1%), MEDLINE (13%), or the Program in Evidence-Based Care of Cancer Care Ontario (3%). Oncologists had the highest reported levels of awareness of the sources of evidence on the Internet. Most family physicians had not heard of any of the sources.

Conclusions The awareness of evidence sources on the Internet varies between patients and clinicians and across groups of clinicians, and some of the most rigorously developed sources of information are still unknown.