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Chi-Lum BI, Durkin RM. Physicians Accessing the Internet: The PAI Project. JAMA. 1999;282(7):633–634. doi:10.1001/jama.282.7.633
To the Editor: In a 1997 study,1 only 20% of physicians reported using the Internet. Reasons may include lack of time or computer skills.2 We conducted a longitudinal survey assessing physicians' attitudes toward learning to use the Internet and possible changes in their Internet usage patterns after completing the Physicians Accessing the Internet Project (PAI), a 4-hour hands-on Internet training course.3,4 The survey addressed the following questions: (1) Do physicians increase their use of the Internet after completion of an Internet workshop? (2) Do physicians change their Internet usage patterns after attending an Internet workshop? and (3) Do physicians' attitudes toward learning how to use the Internet and their perceived future uses of the Internet change after attending an Internet course?
Physicians Accessing the Internet Project workshops were conducted in Norwalk, Conn; Des Moines, Iowa; Honolulu, Hawaii; Boston, Mass; Nashville, Tenn; Jackson, Miss; Lithonia, Ga; and Dallas, Tex, as continuing medical education programs offered by local, state, or specialty medical societies and sometimes as part of a larger medical meeting. Attendees were primarily practicing physicians in both academic and nonacademic settings. Physicians who completed a PAI workshop from April through December 1997 were asked to fill out a baseline survey during the workshop on their Internet usage patterns and were mailed a follow-up survey 6 months after the workshop. Responses were compared using a χ2 test for binary response items, a Wilcoxon rank sum test for pairwise comparisons of ordinal scaled responses, and a z test for the approximation to the binomial distribution to compare 2 independent proportions. Two-tailed P values are reported for all comparisons.
Of the 407 participants who attended the 8 workshops, 355 baseline surveys were returned for data analysis (response rate, 87%). The response rate of the 407 participants for the 6-month follow-up was 77%. Physicians reported increased computer use daily or weekly (69% at baseline and 82% at follow-up; P<.001), Internet use (66% at baseline and 80% at follow-up; P<.002), and use of computers for e-mail access (P<.008) (Table 1). At follow-up, approximately half of respondents reported that learning the skills needed to access the Internet was easy, a rate unchanged from baseline. Type of Internet use did not change. Literature searches were the most common form of Internet use, followed by news retrieval.
Our results suggest that physicians increase their Internet and e-mail use following attendance at a 4-hour Internet workshop. Nearly half continued to report that learning to use the Internet was easy once they have been taught the skills. Our study was limited by the self-reported data and lack of knowledge regarding whether the same sample responded on the first and second surveys. We also do not know whether physicians completing the workshops are similar to physicians overall. However, our study demonstrates that providing physicians the basic skills to access and use the Web can increase physicians' use of the Internet.
Acknowledgment: We thank Elvin Park, RN, Heidi Wiggers, and Timothy Young, RN, of the American Medical Association PAI Project for their assistance. We also express our gratitude to George D. Lundberg, MD, and Robert Musacchio, PhD, for their support and contribution to the PAI Project.