Context Peer-reviewed research evidence that was once available only to clinicians
is now posted on the Internet and accessible to everyone, but levels of awareness
of this evidence among patients and clinicians is not known.
Methods Cross-sectional survey, conducted from July 1998 through January 2000,
of cancer patients (n = 1998), their family physicians (n = 871), and all
oncologists (n = 30) and oncology nurses (n = 44) at the Hamilton Regional
Cancer Centre, Hamilton, Ontario. Comparisons made between and within groups
to examine use of the Internet by patients and clinicians to find health information,
and their awareness of organizations using Internet-based resources to promote
evidence-based decision making.
Results Response rates were 72%, 44%, 97%, and 84% for patients, family physicians,
oncologists, and nurses, respectively; 47% of patients, 64% of family physicians,
100% of oncologists, and 72% of nurses reported that they used the Internet.
Few patients were aware of the existence of the Cochrane Collaboration (1%),
MEDLINE (13%), or the Program in Evidence-Based Care of Cancer Care Ontario
(3%). Oncologists had the highest reported levels of awareness of the sources
of evidence on the Internet. Most family physicians had not heard of any of
Conclusions The awareness of evidence sources on the Internet varies between patients
and clinicians and across groups of clinicians, and some of the most rigorously
developed sources of information are still unknown.