Half of doctors consult Web tools during visits

December 12, 2008
Morgan Lewis Jr.
Morgan Lewis Jr.

Almost half of physicians report consulting a web-based reference tool during a patient visit, mostly to check drug dosing, interaction, and side effect information.

Almost half of physicians report consulting a Web-based reference tool during a patient visit, mostly to check drug dosing, interaction, and side effect information, according to a survey by a California company that provides online clinical support products.

San Mateo-based Epocrates Inc. reported that 48 percent of the 501 customers it surveyed check clinical information online during a visit, 37 percent go online between visits, and 10 percent research after work. Eighty-seven percent of doctors surveyed either “strongly agree” or “agree” that checking an online tool increases patient communication and satisfaction, according to the survey.

Seventy-five percent of physicians surveyed report more online consultation today than a year ago, but only 19 percent say they use an online reference tool five or more times a day. The majority of surveyed physicians access the Web two to four times a day or less.

Of the tools used, 76 percent of doctors prefer clicking directly to a clinical reference site rather than performing an Internet search (24 percent). Other than drug dosing and interaction information, physicians say they research treatment guidelines and options, disease symptoms, and other general disease information.

The Epocrates survey was conducted nationwide with 30 percent of doctors coming from group practices, 30 percent from hospitals, 18 percent from solo practice, 18 percent based in an outpatient clinic, and 13 percent in academic settings.

While the sampling is diverse, the survey may have been biased toward the more technologically-inclined since respondents were not only required to be Epocrates customers, but needed to have accessed the Epocrates online tool within the past 60 days and have used it at least three times.