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Bull Med Libr Assoc. Oct 1998; 86(4): 583–593.
PMCID: PMC226455

Barriers to rural physician use of a digital health sciences library.


BACKGROUND: Rural physicians need access to quality medical information, but accessing information is difficult in rural settings. Digital health sciences libraries (DHSLs) offer the potential to make information more accessible to rural physicians. A telemedicine network was deployed to six rural hospitals in Iowa. Computers were installed allowing access to a DHSL and training sessions were held. The purpose of this study was to examine the barriers to use of a DHSL by rural physicians. METHODS: Approximately one year after deployment of the telemedicine network, physicians were surveyed using a modified critical incident technique. RESULTS: Seventy percent of the eligible physicians responded and 33% had used the DHSL. Primary barriers included insufficient training, being too time consuming to use, and distance of computers from physicians' practice sites. Non-DHSL users cited the difficulty of using the DHSL as their greatest barrier, while DHSL users cited the quality of the information resources. CONCLUSIONS: This study identifies a number of barriers that exist to rural physicians use of a DHSL. Potential solutions to these barriers are discussed. DHSLs will finally reach their potential when they can be delivered by easy to use handheld computers seamlessly integrated into the rural physician's workflow.

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