Skepticism remains about educational value of the Internet

December 21, 2005

A new survey suggests that the Internet has a long way to go before surpassing conventional forms of education or information delivery among practicing radiologists.

A new survey suggests that the Internet has a long way to go before surpassing conventional forms of education or information delivery among practicing radiologists.

In early 2005, radiologists from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore conducted a survey about Internet practice patterns, perceptions, and preferences. They wanted to determine which forms of educational materials and programs are most effective.

Study authors, led by Dr. Melissa Rowell, admit a special interest in the subject because they operate CTisus.com, a website. They presented their findings in an education exhibit at the 2005 RSNA meeting.

The team distributed a 28-question multiple-choice form to attendees at two training courses. Of the 92 respondents, 97% use the Internet for education. Only 21% of the respondents work at a teaching hospital or university. Most are in private practice or at a non-teaching hospital.

About 69% of respondents think the quality of the educational material on the Web is equal to that of traditional sources like print journals. Of these, 45% use the Web for continuing medical education, but report that courses run by institutions are by far the most popular and efficient method of obtaining CME. Within this same group, 67% prefer the hard copy of journal articles, and 26% read articles online before the printed edition appears.

About 45% of the sample use the Web for education on a weekly basis, 32% use it daily, 10% use it several times a day, 8% monthly, 3% never, and 2% rarely. An overwhelming 91% do not use a PDA to view sites or download Web material.

"In order, the main drawbacks of the Web include slow loading of images and videos; portability; lack of CME credit; anonymity of the source; poor text resolution; and expense," wrote the authors.

For CT scanning protocols, 46 of the radiologists obtain these from colleagues, 40 obtain them from CME meetings, 25 from peer-reviewed journals, 21 from the Web, and nine from books. Multiple answers were given by some respondents, which explains why the total number of answers exceeds 92.

Google is the most common search engine for medical information (31 respondents), followed closely by the RSNA's Website (26). Up to 88% of the sample use nonmedical search engines to find information.

Well over half of the 92 respondents (51) report that obtaining CME by attending courses run by an institution is the best method, compared with a journal Website (21), large medical conference (15), journal articles (8), nonjournal medical Website (5), or a hospital forum (5).

"In spite of the Web's 24-hour availability and capacity to deliver information instantaneously, a minority of people use the Internet as their primary means of learning about advancements in radiology," researchers concluded.