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Stud Health Technol Inform. 2004;107(Pt 2):1133-7.

Finding the answers in primary care: information seeking by rural and nonrural clinicians.

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  • 1Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.



Information systems for rural practice may assume that rural clinicians have different information seeking, but studies have not directly compared rural and nonrural information needs using common methodology.


Compare rural and non-rural: 1) information needs; 2) information seeking; 3) effectiveness of information seeking; and 4) use of information resources.


Observation and interviews during one half-day of office practice; telephone follow-up 2-10 days later.


Primary care physicians (39), nurse practitioners (42), and physician assistants (22) in ambulatory practices in rural and nonrural Oregon.


1) number of questions asked, 2) number of questions pursued, 3) number of questions answered), and 4) use of knowledge resources.


Rural clinicians practiced in smaller groups, but were otherwise similar to nonrural clinicians. During half-day interviews, clinicians cared for an average of 8.2 patients (95% CI 7.5 - 8.8) and asked an average of 0.83 questions per patient seen (95% CI 0.73 - 0.92). At follow up, they had pursued an average of 47% of their questions (95% CI 40 - 53%), and reported being successful in finding an answer to 77% of those they pursued (95% CI 70 - 84%). There were no statistically significant differences between rural and nonrural clinicians for any of these variables.


Rural and nonrural clinicians had similar information needs, information seeking, knowledge resource use, and effectiveness at finding answers to their questions. Human consultants, digital resources, and library-based resources were less available, but these differences in availability had little impact on their use.

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