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Demographics, not practice setting, predict doctor tech use

While 81% of doctors go online, a report found which are most likely to use the most Internet communication strategies.

By Bob Cook — Posted June 11, 2012

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To find which physicians are most active on social media and other places online, one study says don’t look at the doctor’s specialty or practice setting.

The most consistent predictors of whether physicians used seven Internet-based communication technologies was whether the doctors were young, male and had teaching hospital privileges, according to a study posted online May 25 on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Crystale Purvis Cooper, PhD, a researcher at the Soltera Center for Cancer Prevention and Control in Tucson, Ariz., and colleagues analyzed DocStyles survey answers from 1,750 primary care physicians, pediatricians, obstetrician-gynecologists and dermatologists. DocStyles, developed by the communications firm Porter Novelli, is an annual Web-based survey of U.S. physicians and allied health professionals.

The study authors looked at demographic and practice-related characteristics of doctors who used social networking websites, portable devices to access the Internet, email to communicate with patients, podcasts, widgets (stand-alone applications that can be embedded into sites by users on pages where they have rights of authorship), RSS feeds and blogs. The authors said 81% of doctors in the survey had used a portable device to access the Internet in the previous six months, and 13% said they had written blog posts. Social networking websites got the second-highest percentage of physician use (59%), email to communicate with patients (49%), podcasts (41%), widgets (22%) and RSS feeds (19%).

A statistical analysis found that demographic characteristics of doctors, rather than practice-related characteristics, were “more consistent predictors of physician use” of the technologies studied.

Cooper and the other study authors said they conducted the study to help guide development of physician-targeted communication initiatives. They also wanted to guide study into the clinical implications of physicians’ technology.

The study was based on 2009 survey data. The authors noted that since the survey, doctor use of social media and mobile devices has expanded among all demographics.

“[P]hysician use of some Internet-based communication technologies has expanded rapidly, and the characteristics of users may change as uptake increases and technologies evolve,” the authors wrote.

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External links

“Physicians who use social media and other internet-based communication technologies,” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, published online May 25 (link)

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