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Joorabchi_2020_Physiotherapists.pdf (567.98 kB)

Physiotherapists’ use of web-based information resources to fulfill their information needs during a theoretical examination: randomized crossover trial

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-14, 10:16 authored by Cailbhe Doherty, Arash Joorabchi, Peter Megyesi, Aileen Flynn, Brian Caulfield
Background: The widespread availability of internet-connected smart devices in the health care setting has the potential to improve the delivery of research evidence to the care pathway and fulfill health care professionals’ information needs. Objective: This study aims to evaluate the frequency with which physiotherapists experience information needs, the capacity of digital information resources to fulfill these needs, and the specific types of resources they use to do so. Methods: A total of 38 participants (all practicing physiotherapists; 19 females, 19 males) were randomly assigned to complete three 20-question multiple-choice questionnaire (MCQ) examinations under 3 conditions in a randomized crossover study design: assisted by a web browser, assisted by a federated search portal system, and unassisted. MCQ scores, times, and frequencies of information needs were recorded for overall examination-level and individual question-level analyses. Generalized estimating equations were used to assess differences between conditions for the primary outcomes. A log file analysis was conducted to evaluate participants’ web search and retrieval behaviors. Results: Participants experienced an information need in 55.59% (845/1520) MCQs (assisted conditions only) and exhibited a mean improvement of 10% and 16% in overall examination scores for the federated search and web browser conditions, respectively, compared with the unassisted condition (P<.001). In the web browser condition, Google was the most popular resource and the only search engine used, accounting for 1273 (64%) of hits, followed by PubMed (195 hits; 10% of total). In the federated search condition, Wikipedia and PubMed were the most popular resources with 1518 (46% of total) and 1273 (39% of total) hits, respectively. Conclusions: In agreement with the findings of previous research studies among medical physicians, the results of this study demonstrate that physiotherapists frequently experience information needs. This study provides new insights into the preferred digital information resources used by physiotherapists to fulfill these needs. Future research should clarify the implications of physiotherapists’ apparent high reliance on Google, whether these results reflect the authentic clinical environment, and whether fulfilling clinical information needs alters practice behaviors or improves patient outcomes.



Journal of Medical Internet Research;22,(12) e19747


JMIR Publications



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European Union (EU)



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