African postgraduate doctors regularly use free online journals

Medical researchers and doctors in training regularly use online journals, even if they have to do so from their local internet cafe, according to new research published in BMC Health Services Research.

A research team from five countries in Africa and the UK surveyed over 300 postgraduate doctors and research scientists to determine their use and awareness of online medical information and free-access initiatives. They discovered that 66 per cent had used the internet for health information in the last week, although text books were still the main information source for 70 per cent of respondents.

Most postgraduate doctors had heard of PubMed (90 per cent) and the BMJ website (78 per cent) but fewer had heard of the Cochrane Library, BioMed Central or the World Health Organization’s HINARI initiative. Users also reported problems with getting passwords from their librarians in order to use HINARI and other password-controlled services. The use of PubMed without a password was popular.

The authors of the paper 'Access to electronic health knowledge in five countries in Africa: a descriptive study' (in press) added that power interruptions and inadequate computing facilities continue to limit online journals’ use in Africa and awareness of free access to journals remains variable.

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