Purpose. Use of the Internet to access biomedical information in patient care has important implications in medical education. Little is known about how community-based clinical teachers use computers in their offices and what factors, such as age, may influence use. Method. A total of 178 active community-based primary care preceptors were mailed a 15-item questionnaire about their computer equipment; Internet use; and specific applications in patient care, patients' education, medical students' or residents' education, or accessing other clinical and/or research information. Data analysis used descriptive statistics, chi-square for comparisons of categorical data and analysis of variance (ANOVA) mixed model for comparisons of continuous variables. All tests were two-tailed with alpha set at .05 to determine statistical significance. Results. In all, 129 preceptors responded (73%). Office computer availability was high (92%). The Internet as a clinical information resource was used most frequently (98%) and MD Consult and Medline-EBM were used less frequently (20% and 21%, respectively). No statistical differences were found in routine use by age of preceptor; frequency of use did differ. Preceptors 60 years or older were four times more likely to use the Internet to assist in students' and residents' education (p = .02) and at least twice as likely to use full text Medline articles for patient care decisions (p = .05) than their younger colleagues. Decreased computer use was related to lack of time (45%) or other logistical reasons (40%), such as the computer's distance from the patient care areas or slow connections. Conclusions. Rates of computer access and Internet connectivity were high among community-based preceptors of all ages. Uses of specific online clinical and/or educational resources varied by preceptors' age with more rather than less use among older preceptors, an unexpected finding.
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