Annals of African Medicine
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Table of Contents
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 115-119  

Information-seeking behavior and computer literacy among resident doctors in Maiduguri, Nigeria

1 Department of Orthopaedics/Trauma, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria
2 Department of Surgery, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria
3 Department of Surgery, Federal Neuro-Psychiatry Hospital, Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication22-May-2013

Correspondence Address:
A D Abbas
Department of Orthopaedics/Trauma, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Borno state
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1596-3519.112404

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Background/Objective: Resident doctors are key actors in patient management in all the federal training institutions in nigeria. Knowing the information-seeking behavior of this group of doctors and their level of computer knowledge would facilitate informed decision in providing them with the relevant sources of information as well as encouraging the practice of evidence-based medicine. This is to examine information-seeking behavior among resident doctors and analyze its relationship to computer ownership and literacy.
Materials and Methods: A pretested self-administered questionnaire was used to obtain information from the resident doctors in the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) and the Federal Neuro-Psychiatry Hospital (FNPH). The data fields requested included the biodata, major source of medical information, level of computer literacy, and computer ownership. Other questions included were their familiarity with basic computer operations as well as versatility on the use of the Internet and possession of an active e-mail address.
Results: Out of 109 questionnaires distributed 100 were returned (91.7% response rate). Seventy three of the 100 respondents use printed material as their major source of medical information. Ninety three of the respondents own a laptop, a desktop or both, while 7 have no computers. Ninety-four respondents are computer literate while 6 are computer illiterates. Seventy-five respondents have an e-mail address while 25 do not have e-mail address. Seventy-five search the Internet for information while 25 do not know how to use the Internet.
Conclusion: Despite the high computer ownership and literacy rate among resident doctors, the printed material remains their main source of medical information.

   Abstract in French 

Contexte/objectif: Les médecins résidents sont des acteurs clés dans la gestion des patients dans toutes les institutions de formation fédéral au nigeria. Connaître le comportement de recherche d'information de ce groupe de médecins et de leur niveau de connaissances en informatique faciliterait une décision éclairée en leur fournissant les sources pertinentes d'information ainsi qu'à encourager la pratique de la médecine factuelle. Il s'agit d'examiner le comportement de recherche d'informations parmi les médecins résidents et d'analyser sa relation avec le propriétaire de l'ordinateur et de l'alphabétisation.
Méthodes et matériaux: A prétestée questionnaire auto-administré a été utilisé pour obtenir des informations par les médecins résidents dans l'Université de l'hôpital universitaire de Maiduguri (UMTH) et l'hôpital fédéral de Neuro-Psychiatrie (SPPN),. Les champs de données demandés inclus les données biographiques, source importante de renseignements médicaux, le niveau de connaissances en informatique et la propriété de l'ordinateur. Autres questions incluses étaient leur familiarité avec les opérations de base en informatique ainsi que la polyvalence sur l'utilisation de l'Internet et de la possession d'une adresse de messagerie active.
Résultats: Pour 109 questionnaires distribués 100 ont été retournés (91,7 % taux de réponse). Soixante-treize des 100 répondants utiliser imprimés comme principale source d'information médicale. Quatre-vingt treize des répondants possèdent un ordinateur portable, un ordinateur de bureau ou les deux, tandis que 7 n'ont aucuns ordinateurs. Quatre-vingt-quatorze personnes interrogées sont en informatique, alors que 6 sont analphabètes de l'ordinateur. Soixante-quinze personnes interrogées ont une adresse de messagerie, tandis que les 25 n'ont pas d'adresse de messagerie. Soixante-quinze Rechercher sur Internet des informations alors que les 25 ne sais pas comment faire pour utiliser l'Internet.
Conclusion: Malgré la propriété ordinateur haute et le taux d'alphabétisation parmi les médecins résidents, le matériel imprimé reste leur principale source d'information médicale.
Mots clés: Initiation à l'informatique, les médecins résidents, recherche d'Information

Keywords: Computer literacy, information-seeking, resident doctors

How to cite this article:
Abbas A D, Abubakar A M, Omeiza B, Minoza K. Information-seeking behavior and computer literacy among resident doctors in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Ann Afr Med 2013;12:115-9

How to cite this URL:
Abbas A D, Abubakar A M, Omeiza B, Minoza K. Information-seeking behavior and computer literacy among resident doctors in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Ann Afr Med [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Nov 29];12:115-9. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Getting an insight into the information-seeking behavior of resident doctors is of paramount importance in this era of information overload. [1] The information-seeking pattern and the information-searching skills of a doctor play a role in his or her ability to practice evidence-based medicine (EBM). [2] This study is hoped to serve as a guide for training institutions in providing the relevant sources of information. It is also likely to have a positive impact on patient management since resident doctors serve as the vanguard in patient care in most tertiary hospitals.

The objective of this study is to examine information-seeking behavior among resident doctors and analyze its relationship to computer ownership and literacy. The sources of information for the resident doctor in the hospital setting includes one-on-one interaction with the consultants; however this study intends to focus on the information-seeking behavior rather than the sources. The findings of this study may serve as a baseline for future research into the subject.

   Materials and Methods Top

This is a questionnaire-based cross-sectional study using a self-administered closed-format questionnaire. The sample includes all the resident doctors from the two federal health institutions in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, which are University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) and the Federal Neuro-Psychiatry Hospital (FNPH). The pretested questionnaires were distributed to all the 109 resident doctors. For the sake of this study, a resident doctor is defined as any doctor working in the above-mentioned hospitals above the rank of a house officer and yet not a consultant. The questionnaire is divided into clear subheaded sections. The data fields requested include the biodata, which includes the age, sex, department or specialty, and the rank. Others include the respondent's major source of medical information, level and source of computer knowledge, computer ownership, and familiarity with basic computer operations. Other questions included were the familiarity with the use of the Internet and frequency of its use, as well as opinion on the usefulness of the Internet to residency training.

The data were analyzed using SPSS version 16. Differences within the groups were analyzed using the Chi-square test.

   Results Top

From a sample of 109 resident doctors, 100 questionnaires were returned completely filled. This gives a response rate of 91.7%.


The respondents were made up of 72 males and 28 females, whose ages ranged between 27 and 46 years with a mean age of 34.4 years (SD ± 3.9). Twenty one of the 100 respondents were from the General out-patient/Accident and emergency departments (GOPD/AE) and nearly half (47) of the doctors were registrars; details are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Socio-demographic profile of the resident doctors

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Sources of medical information

The printed sources of information which included books and journals were the major source of medical information among majority of the respondents. Seventy three of the 100 respondents use these hard copy sources, 14 use the Internet, 8 consult senior colleagues, 4 use saved data on CD ROMs, while one respondent reported using other unspecified source.

Computer ownership

Sixty three of the respondents own laptop computers while 22 own both laptop and desktop computers. Eight out of the 100 respondents reported owning only a desktop while 7 do not have a computer.

Level and source of computer knowledge

Thirty seven of the 100 respondents had formal training in the use of computers and computer applications, 57 had only informal training, while 6 of the resident doctors were computer illiterates.

Familiarity with basic computer operations

Computer housekeeping

Thirty four of the100 respondents reported their familiarity with basic computer housekeeping as good, 32 as fair while 34 as poor.

Graphical user interface

Only nineteen reported their familiarity with GUI as good, 27 as fair whereas 54 respondents reported poor familiarity.

Logging in and out of a network

Sixty nine were good with logging in and out of a network, 13 were fair while 18 have poor familiarity with such.

Statistical software

Eighteen of the respondents are familiar with the use of at least one statistical software package, while 82 were not familiar with any statistical software.

Use of the internet

E-mail use

Seventy-five respondents have e-mail address while 25 do not have an e-mail address.

Best search engine

Sixty eight use Google for searching on the Internet, 7 use Yahoo whereas 25 are not familiar with any search engine.

Frequency of internet use

Seventeen of the respondents use the Internet daily, 37 use the Internet once a week, 28 use it once a month, while 18 have never used the Internet.

Usefulness of the internet to residency training

Ninety three of the respondents agree that the Internet is an important tool in their management of patients while the remaining 7 do not agree. Among those 93 doctors who agree, 5.5% have no training in computer utilization, 35.5% had formal training while 59.1% had only informal training. Among the 7 respondents that do not agree that the Internet is an important tool, 14.3% had no computer knowledge, 57.1% of them have had formal training in the use of computers while 26.8% had only informal training. This relationship was found to have no statistical significance (P = 0.25) as shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: A comparison between residents that believe and residents that don't believe that the internet is an important tool in patient management

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The resident doctors who are already in specialty training use the Internet more than those who are yet to commence specialty training, 14.2% versus 12%. The residents already in training depend less on their senior colleagues than their counterparts that are yet to commence the training (6.7% Vs 12%) as shown in [Table 3].
Table 3: Depicting doctors preferred source of information when categorized into resident doctors training and resident doctors form of computer knowledge

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   Discussion Top

There are principally three sources that doctors use to seek medical information worldwide: the use of printed information from textbooks, journals and pamphlets, the use of electronic or digital media, including online or electronic textbooks, databases, journals and websites, and human based such as conversing with colleagues or others knowledgeable in a field of expertise via the telephone, in person, or through some electronic mechanism. [3],[4] The main finding in our study is the preference of majority of our respondents to the print-based sources such as books and journals when seeking medical information. This finding cuts across all categories of resident doctors irrespective of computer ownership or knowledge and whether in specialty training or not yet in training. This finding is similar to the pattern among resident doctors in Brazil [5] where 77% of the doctors in the study preferred use of text books to access medical information. In contrast in the developed countries of the world electronic-based sources like the Internet are the preferred sources in response to any medical query. [6],[7]

Electronic-based sources are as effective as the print-based source in answering a clinical query with the advantage of being more time efficient. [8]

Computer ownership and literacy among doctors in a tertiary center in Nigeria was found to be very poor when compared to that of their counterparts in the developed world, [9] as illustrated by a study in the United States around the same time which found 100% computer ownership and access to the Internet as well as literacy rate among their respondents. [4] Our finding of 93% computer ownership and 94% literacy rate is a great improvement to what was obtained from the findings in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. [9] However our respondents' access to the Internet is still relatively low. This will be explained by limitation to access to Internet facilities by the respondents. Despite this, most of our respondents agree that the Internet is an important tool in patient management and this includes even those with no training in computer utilization. As one would expect, this is the finding also among doctors studied in the developed world. [6] This study also shows that knowledge of computer utilization, whether formal or informal, has a positive influence on the search pattern among residents. Whereas those with knowledge use the Internet and other electronic sources more, those with no knowledge do not use these sources at all. There is also less use of the printed sources among those with computer knowledge when compared to those without any form of computer knowledge. This is not unexpected since the more conversant the resident is with computer utilization the more readily he or she might use the electronic sources.

Our findings that junior resident doctors tend to depend more on their senior colleagues than those residents that are higher in the training concurs with findings among junior resident doctors in Brazil. [5] However this finding does not negate the fact that the consultants still serve as the guide to all the residents, both junior and senior.

   Conclusion Top

Resident doctors source for medical information mainly from books and journal articles. Despite their high computer ownership and literacy rate these printed materials remain their main source of medical information. There is need to encourage the use of the electronic media among this group of doctors for sourcing medical information to facilitate good use of the multitudes of materials on the Internet. Training institutions will assist trainees by providing facilities for Internet and other electronic sources of medical information and also training in the skills necessary for efficient utilization of these resources.

   References Top

1.Andrews JE, Pearce KA, Ireson C, Love MM. Information-seeking behaviors of practitioners in a primary care practice-based research network (PBRN). J Med Libr Assoc 2005;93:206-12.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Ramos K, Linscheid R, Schafer S. Real - time information - seeking behavior of residency physicians . Fam Med 2003;35:257-60  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Davies K. The information-seeking behaviour of doctors: a review of the evidence. Health Info Libr J 2007;24:78-94.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Dorsey MJ, Detlefsen E. Investigating information-seeking behaviors of primary care physicians who care for older depressed patients and their family caregivers: A pilot study JCHLA/JABSC 2005;26:111-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Martinez-Silveira MS, Oddone N. Information-seeking behavior of medical residents in clinical practice in Bahia, Brazi. J Med Libr Assoc 2008;96:381-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Bennett NL, Casebeer LL, Kristofco RE., Strasser SM. Physicians ' Internet information - seeking behaviors . J Contin Educ Health Prof 2005;24:31-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Prendiville T W, Saunders J and Fitzsimons J. The information-seeking behaviour of paediatricians accessing web-based resources Arch Dis Child 2009;94:633-5.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.D'Alessandro DM, Kreiter CD, Peterson MW. An evaluation of information-seeking behaviours of general paediatricians. Pediatrics 2004;113:64-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Bello IS, Arogundade FA, Sanusi AA, Ezeoma IT, Abioye-Kuteyi EA, Akinsola A. Knowledge and utilization of information technology among Health care professionals and students in Ile-Ife, Nigeria: A case study of a University Teaching Hospital. J Med Internet Res 2004;6:e45.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

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