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Hospital doctors prefer medical journals and conferences for info

Medical journals continue to play a key role in the working lives of senior hospital doctors, according to findings from the 2006 Hospital Readership Survey (HRS).

An independent industry initiative sponsored by 12 publishers and a handful of media buyers, the HRS is designed to elicit objective feedback from hospital-based healthcare professionals regarding the information value they put in medical journals, the internet and other reading material and information sources.

The 2006 annual survey, just the second in the series, was sent out to nearly 45,000 senior hospital doctors across 28 specialities. When asked which of a range of sources they considered to be useful in their work, doctors in all specialities (overall response rate 32 per cent) gave the highest scores to medical journals, followed by conferences.

On average, senior doctors read 1.9 weekly journals of a general nature and 1.7 journals which relate to their area of expertise and practice. Yet, the research revealed a significant variation in opinion between specialities; doctors working in dermatology were the most fervent journal readers, casting their eyes over an average of three specialist publications, whereas, at the other end of the scale, doctors working in cardio-thoracic surgery admitted to reading, on average, less than one journal.

Online resources
Medical journal websites were also deemed to be a popular information source by performing a complementary role to the print journals.

Notably, some 58 per cent of doctors gave 'accessing medical journal websites' as their primary reason for having logged on to the internet in the previous four weeks, followed by reading/downloading research papers (55 per cent). Many doctors also revealed that they look to the internet for education and training, with nearly half (46 per cent) having done this within the month prior to the survey.

Of note is that doctors across all specialities are relatively prolific in surfing the web (excluding email). Some 87 per cent of respondents claimed to spend time on the internet (32 per cent on a daily basis), however it seems that doctors' propensity to do so is not uniform around the hospital. Those working in infectious diseases departments are much more likely to use the internet for work purposes on a daily basis (75 per cent), whereas less than one in five (18 per cent) ophthalmologists do the same.

Reps and sponsored meetings
Hospital doctors were also asked to rank in terms of usefulness to their work (very; quite; not very; not at all) company reps and sponsored meetings.

The results revealed an almost down the middle split between those who considered company reps to be 'not very useful' (37 per cent) and those who thought they were 'quite useful' (36 per cent). Only 4 per cent thought that reps were 'very useful', while 17 per cent of respondents ranked them to be 'not at all useful'.

Overall, the findings suggest that hospital-based doctors do not find company reps to be useful to them in their work (53 per cent).

Some 92 per cent of respondents said they considered conferences to be useful to some degree, yet just 55 per cent thought that sponsored meetings specifically were 'quite useful' and 16 per cent said they were `very useful'.

2nd September 2008

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