PURPOSE: Many medical journals are currently offering physicians the option to subscribe electronically, allowing readers access by means of the Internet. However, physicians' opinions about this innovation are not known. This exploratory study was designed to learn more about physicians' opinions and attitudes regarding electronic publications. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: A three-page questionnaire was developed to survey all physicians (faculty and house officers) at a large university-affiliated teaching hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The questionnaire explored many of the features that make electronic journals distinct from printed journals. RESULTS: Of the 314 physicians surveyed, 255 (81%) returned a completed questionnaire. The mean (± SD) age of the respondents was 41 ± 10 years, 164 (65%) were male, and 50 (20%) were house officers. Twenty-six percent of respondents (n = 66) thought that electronic journals would lower the quality of the medical literature, and 25% (n = 63) believed that the prestige of authorship would be lessened. Seventy to eighty percent of physicians responded that electronic journals would decrease clutter in their offices and homes, be more environmentally friendly than the current system, make it easier to locate research reports that they had read, and offer the benefit of linkage to related articles. Seventy-four percent of physicians (n = 188) were concerned about losing the convenience of being able to read a printed journal anywhere. In multivariate analyses, female sex, being a faculty member (vs house officer), fewer publications, better computer skills, and more frequent use of the Internet were independently associated with positive attitudes toward various aspects of electronic journals. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians responded favorably to the many potential values and applications of electronic publications but were most concerned with the loss of the convenience that printed journals offer.
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