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World J Surg. 2005 Sep;29(9):1194-8.

Relevance of electronic health information to doctors in the developing world: results of the Ptolemy Project's Internet-based Health Information Study (IBHIS).

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  • 1Office of international Surgery, University of Toronto, c/o 228 26th Avenue SW, Suite 301, Calgary, Alberta T2S 3C6, Canada.


The aim of this study was to determine the current usage, relevance, and preferences for electronic health information (EHI) in the participant surgeons' clinical, research, and teaching activities. The Internet-Based Health Information Survey (IBHIS) was conducted from August to December 2003. Thirty-seven doctors (primarily practicing in East Africa) participated, all of whom had been using the Ptolemy resources for at least 6 months. Survey questions concerned time spent reading medical literature, preferred information sources, preferred type of publication, relevance, preference for western versus local medical literature, and academic productivity. Among the 75 eligible participants, 37 (48%) responded. From these responses it was found that African surgeons with access to EHI read more than articles than they did before they had such access, and they find that the information obtained is highly relevant to their clinical, teaching, and research activities. They prefer electronic journals to textbooks and are more inclined to change their practice based on information found in western journals than local journals. Ptolemy resources helped the respondents who reported academic work write a total of 33 papers for presentation or publication. Overall, access to EHI enables doctors in Africa to read more, is relevant, and contributes directly to academic productivity; thus Western medical literature is useful in the developing world, and EHI delivery should continue to expand.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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