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J Med Libr Assoc. 2014 Jan;102(1):22-30. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.102.1.006.

Mobile devices in medicine: a survey of how medical students, residents, and faculty use smartphones and other mobile devices to find information.

Author information

1 , Associate Librarian, Life Sciences Library, McGill University, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler, Montreal, QC H3G 1Y6, Canada; , Public Services Librarian, John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, University of Alberta, 2K3.28 Walter Mackenzie Centre, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R7, Canada.



The research investigated the extent to which students, residents, and faculty members in Canadian medical faculties use mobile devices, such as smartphones (e.g., iPhone, Android, Blackberry) and tablet computers (e.g., iPad), to answer clinical questions and find medical information. The results of this study will inform how health libraries can effectively support mobile technology and collections.


An electronic survey was distributed by medical librarians at four Canadian universities to medical students, residents, and faculty members via departmental email discussion lists, personal contacts, and relevant websites. It investigated the types of information sought, facilitators to mobile device use in medical information seeking, barriers to access, support needs, familiarity with institutionally licensed resources, and most frequently used resources.


The survey of 1,210 respondents indicated widespread use of smartphones and tablets in clinical settings in 4 Canadian universities. Third- and fourth-year undergraduate students (i.e., those in their clinical clerkships) and medical residents, compared to other graduate students and faculty, used their mobile devices more often, used them for a broader range of activities, and purchased more resources for their devices.


Technological and intellectual barriers do not seem to prevent medical trainees and faculty from regularly using mobile devices for their medical information searches; however, barriers to access and lack of awareness might keep them from using reliable, library-licensed resources.


Libraries should focus on providing access to a smaller number of highly used mobile resources instead of a huge collection until library-licensed mobile resources have streamlined authentication processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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