Diagnoses, drugs, and treatment are the main information needs of primary care physicians and nurses, and the internet is the information source most commonly used to meet these needs




Perryman, Carol L.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Alberta Learning Services


Objective – To improve information support services to health practitioners making clinical decisions by reviewing the literature on the information needs and information seeking behaviours of primary care physicians and nurses. Within this larger objective, specific questions were 1) information sources used; 2) differences between the two groups; and 3) barriers to searching for both groups.

Design – Literature review.

Setting – SCOPUS, CINAHL, OVID Medline, and PubMed databases.

Subjects – Results from structured searches in four bibliographic databases on the information needs of primary care physicians and nurses.

Methods – Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) and keyword search strategies tailored to each of four databases were employed to retrieve items pertinent to research objectives. Concepts represented in either controlled or natural language vocabularies included “information seeking behaviour, primary health care, primary care physicians and nurses” (p. 180). An initial yield of 1169 items was filtered by language (English only), pertinence to study objectives, publication dates (2000-2012), and study participant age (>18). After filtering, 47 articles were examined and summarized, and recommendations for further research were made.

Main Results – Few topical differences in information needed were identified between primary care physicians and nurses. Across studies retrieved, members of both groups sought information on drugs, diagnoses, and therapy. The Internet (including bibliographic databases and web-based searching) was the source of information most frequently mentioned, followed by textbooks, journals, colleagues, drug compendiums, professional websites, and medical libraries. There is insufficient evidence to support conclusions about the differences between groups. In most research, information needs and behaviours for both groups have been discussed simultaneously, with no real distinction made, suggesting that there may not be significant differences even though a few studies have found that nurses’ emphasis is on policy and procedures. Barriers to access include time, searching skills, and geographic location; for the last, improvements have been made but rural practitioners continue to be adversely affected by limited access to people and resources.

Conclusion – Both primary care physicians and nurses seek information on diagnosis and treatment. The Internet is of increasing utility for both groups, but all resources have advantages and disadvantages in identifying evidence based information for use in practice. Further research is required to support access and use of evidence based resources, and to explore how focused, evidence based information can be integrated into electronic health record systems.



Information behavior, Information seeking, Primary care physicians, Nurses


This is a publisher’s version of an article that is available at: https://doi.org/10.18438/B86P5D. Recommended citation: Perryman, C. (2014). Diagnoses, drugs, and treatment are the main information needs of primary care physicians and nurses, and the internet is the information source most commonly used to meet these needs. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 9(3), 107–109. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.