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Doctors.net.uk reports record year

A Doctors.net.uk report shows doctors are increasingly turning to the internet for professional information and communication

Latest statistics from Doctors.net.uk show that doctors are increasingly turning to the internet, and in particular, trusted independent websites, both as a regular source of professional information and as a communication lifeline during times of medical emergency.

Doctors.net.uk, the UK's largest network of medical professionals, saw record levels of doctor engagement in 2009, with 25 million unique web sessions during the year. 

Surges in activity were reported across the network's clinical discussion and news pages during the outbreak of swine flu in April 2009, and when bad weather left doctors and patients snow-bound in February 2009.

The statistics demonstrate the reliance that doctors have on online resources that can be accessed remotely, to provide relevant and regular updates, especially during times of disruption. 

The findings also indicate a change in doctors' online behaviour with greater usage of multimedia content. Accessing medical conference highlights showed the greatest growth, with a near five-fold increase since 2007. 

This was coupled with spikes in activity for the podcast facility, with more than one in eight members accessing the latest interviews during the final quarter of 2009. Latest podcasts have featured Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC and Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer.

The figures suggest doctors have a growing interest for online audio and video materials and that there is an increased realisation by public sector bodies and the healthcare industry that online methods and channels are an ideal way to reach busy medical professionals. 

Similarly, the network experienced growth in usage of its email and news functions with email page impressions doubling between 2007 and 2009. It saw 90 per cent of all members utilising the facility in December 2009.

In conjunction with this growth, there is a clear trend towards greater levels of interaction, with doctors returning regularly to those online functions that provide regular new insights or the opportunity for immediate peer discussion, namely the forum (average visits of 907 times per member in 2009), the topical bulletin (22 times per member a year) and news (16 times per member a year). 

Dr Tim Ringrose, medical director at Doctors.net.uk, believes that this step change in online behaviour can be attributed to an increased confidence and familiarity with professional online resources. He argues that doctors have now reached a threshold of trust and understanding that enables them to use the network to their advantage – to improve professional efficiency and effectiveness.  

He said: "Whether doctors' needs are to gather information, receive time-critical updates or to share advice and opinion with their colleagues, there is clearly real demand for trustworthy online resources.

"With doctors becoming more and more online savvy, the onus is now on the healthcare sector – whether pharmaceutical, medical devices, public sector or otherwise – to tune in and respond to the new challenges and opportunities presented by online engagement.

"The leap in usage of learning modules, conference highlights and podcasts is illustrative of opportunities that can be harnessed by the sector. As trust grows, more and more doctors are turning to such services for relevant updates or to gain insights from thought leaders – an opportunity that, due to time constraints, would otherwise pass them by. The uptake is tremendous, for example in 2009, 56,088 unique doctors took part in online CME activities."

27th April 2010

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