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Acad Med. 2004 Jun;79(6):580-90.

Computer use among community-based primary care physician preceptors.

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Department of Community and Family Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH 03756, USA.



Use of the Internet to access biomedical information in patient care has important implications in medical education. Little is known about how community-based clinical teachers use computers in their offices and what factors, such as age, may influence use.


A total of 178 active community-based primary care preceptors were mailed a 15-item questionnaire about their computer equipment; Internet use; and specific applications in patient care, patients' education, medical students' or residents' education, or accessing other clinical and/or research information. Data analysis used descriptive statistics, chi-square for comparisons of categorical data and analysis of variance (ANOVA) mixed model for comparisons of continuous variables. All tests were two-tailed with alpha set at.05 to determine statistical significance.


In all, 129 preceptors responded (73%). Office computer availability was high (92%). The Internet as a clinical information resource was used most frequently (98%) and MD Consult and Medline-EBM were used less frequently (20% and 21%, respectively). No statistical differences were found in routine use by age of preceptor; frequency of use did differ. Preceptors 60 years or older were four times more likely to use the Internet to assist in students' and residents' education (p =.02) and at least twice as likely to use full text Medline articles for patient care decisions (p =.05) than their younger colleagues. Decreased computer use was related to lack of time (45%) or other logistical reasons (40%), such as the computer's distance from the patient care areas or slow connections.


Rates of computer access and Internet connectivity were high among community-based preceptors of all ages. Uses of specific online clinical and/or educational resources varied by preceptors' age with more rather than less use among older preceptors, an unexpected finding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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