9º World Congress on Health Information and Libraries

Salvador, Bahia - Brazil, September, 20 to 23 - 2005


4th Regional Coordination Meeting of the VHL

September, 19 to 20 - 2005

Information-seeking behavior of medical residents in clinical practice


INTRODUCTION: In their clinical practice, physicians experience very specific informa-tion needs, in relation to which precision, reliability and promptness are fundamental as-pects. Due to the growing volume of medical literature, these professionals have encoun-tered difficulties in obtaining documents that could improve their work. Researches con-ducted in several countries have recognized such indicators. In Brazil, studies about this subject haven’t yet been undertaken.

OBJECTIVES: Identify the information needs of physicians during their daily clinical prac-tice and understand the information-seeking behavior they adopt to satisfy these needs.

METHODS: Comprised of a group of 73 residents working at the University Hospital of Salvador, Bahia, the sample was surveyed through the application of a questionnaire struc-tured in two parts. The first part identified the group’s profile, collected data related to phy-sicians’ most frequent information needs and about the basic f eatures of their information-seeking behavior: their habits, preferences and skills in exploiting medical information re-sources. The second part took advantage of the critical incident technique to analyze situa-tions in which a personal experience of seeking and finding information was successful in modifying the physicians’ attitude toward the treatment of the patient.

RESULTS: Evidencing their proficiency in clinical practice, 45% of the sample were in their second residency period. The majority of the physicians admitted facing information needs during their work, predominantly related to drug therapy. As to the information-seeking behavior they adopted to fulfill such needs, the major part of the respondents ex-hibited a conservative behavior, since they recognized their first information sources were their supervisor or their personal collections, comprised mainly of books. Because of its poor and outdated collections, the library is rarely visited by these medical residents, show-ing they m iss entirely the role played by the librarian. Although they declared they were aware of the available electronic information resources in the medical field and that they used the Web to search for information, they were not familiar to subscribing to scientific journals or to medical portals and they lacked the abilities to efficiently explore biblio-graphical databases, as they pointed the great number of retrieved information as their main problem in dealing with such technologies.

CONCLUSION: The results revealed contradictions between these physicians’ informa-tion-seeking behavior and the accelerated improvement of the information resources in the medical field. Largely available, these resources are scarcely used to help handle the objec-tive issues that come out of their daily practice, suggesting this group either is not ac-quainted of the existing sources in the area or needs to develop specific competencies to deal with them. Yet the results seem to support the idea of an important role for the medical information professional in the near future.