Article

Understanding the Factors That Influence the Adoption and Meaningful Use of Social Media by Physicians to Share Medical Information

Journal of Medical Internet Research (Impact Factor: 4.67). 09/2012; 14(5):e117. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.2138

ABSTRACT Background
Within the medical community there is persistent debate as to whether the information available through social media is trustworthy and valid, and whether physicians are ready to adopt these technologies and ultimately embrace them as a format for professional development and lifelong learning.

Objective
To identify how physicians are using social media to share and exchange medical information with other physicians, and to identify the factors that influence physicians’ use of social media as a component of their lifelong learning and continuing professional development.

Methods
We developed a survey instrument based on the Technology Acceptance Model, hypothesizing that technology usage is best predicted by a physician’s attitudes toward the technology, perceptions about the technology’s usefulness and ease of use, and individual factors such as personal innovativeness. The survey was distributed via email to a random sample of 1695 practicing oncologists and primary care physicians in the United States in March 2011. Responses from 485 physicians were analyzed (response rate 28.61%).

Results
Overall, 117 of 485 (24.1%) of respondents used social media daily or many times daily to scan or explore medical information, whereas 69 of 485 (14.2%) contributed new information via social media on a daily basis. On a weekly basis or more, 296 of 485 (61.0%) scanned and 223 of 485 (46.0%) contributed. In terms of attitudes toward the use of social media, 279 of 485 respondents (57.5%) perceived social media to be beneficial, engaging, and a good way to get current, high-quality information. In terms of usefulness, 281 of 485 (57.9%) of respondents stated that social media enabled them to care for patients more effectively, and 291 of 485 (60.0%) stated it improved the quality of patient care they delivered. The main factors influencing a physician’s usage of social media to share medical knowledge with other physicians were perceived ease of use and usefulness. Respondents who had positive attitudes toward the use of social media were more likely to use social media and to share medical information with other physicians through social media. Neither age nor gender had a significant impact on adoption or usage of social media.

Conclusions
Based on the results of this study, the use of social media applications may be seen as an efficient and effective method for physicians to keep up-to-date and to share newly acquired medical knowledge with other physicians within the medical community and to improve the quality of patient care. Future studies are needed to examine the impact of the meaningful use of social media on physicians’ knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors in practice.

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