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Study cites need for easy-to-find information
Family physicians often have questions about patient conditions and procedures but don’t pursue the answers, according to a University of Iowa Health Care study.
The study, by John W. Ely, MD, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, concluded that there is a need for sources of easy-to-find information for physicians.
Ely and his research team studied 103 family physicians in Eastern Iowa. They followed each doctor for two half-days and asked the doctor to share any questions he or she had about patient conditions and patient care. Researchers tabulated a total of 1,101 questions during the 21-month research project. The researchers found that 64% of the questions were not pursued immediately.
The most common reason for not pursing the answer was that the doctor felt a reasonable decision could be based on his or her knowledge.
Ely says the goal of the study was to find better and faster ways for doctors to answer the questions they have about their patients and the care they need.
According to the researchers, 80% of the questions physicians followed up on were answered in two minutes using textbooks and colleagues. On only two occasions did the physician being observed perform a formal literature search.
The textbooks consulted by the doctors in the study did not always contain the information the physicians needed, Ely says.
Common question topics were prescriptions, infectious disease, obstetrics, and gynecology.
"We need to find better ways of answering physicians’ questions. Although computers fared poorly in this and other studies, improvements in their speed, portability, and user-friendliness are making them more useful to doctors," he adds.
Ely proposes a continually updated database of questions from physicians along with answers.
"Doctors need bottom-line answers to their questions, and they need them quickly," the study concluded.