‘GPs rely on drug reps for info’ – is anyone surprised?

Choice has just published a survey saying that Australian general practitioners are reliant on pharmaceutical reps for much of the information they learn about new treatments, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“Even though only 24 per cent of doctors trusted the information as much as an independent source, most (81 per cent) would rather receive it because it was often the only way to get timely information on new drugs,” the SMH reports.

“The survey of 180 doctors found that 73 per cent referred to pharmaceutical companies or their representatives for drug information. This made the companies the second-most important source for doctors after clinical evidence.

“Drug companies are the main source of information for 16 per cent of doctors when deciding whether to prescribe a new drug, the survey said.

“‘[Drug company marketing is] often the only way you get information about new drugs in a timely fashion,'” one doctor said.”

Unlike most media reports, which paint pharma companies as worse than tobacco companies, this report stresses that the main reason GPs rely so heavily on pharma companies is the lack of independent information available. Although there may be a difference between “lack of information” and “lack of knowledge of information”, as half of the GPs surveyed said they were not aware of the government-funded National Prescribing Service (NPS). Hmmm, maybe the government needs a national field force armed with brochures, pens and Post-it notes…

Enough health information, already!

Searching for healthcare information has consistently ranked among the most popular search activities on the Web – in fact, in the case of aging baby boomers, it ranks at the top of all Web activities, even higher than using email. So does that mean it has reached saturation point?

eMarketer reports on a new study by Harris Interactive that finds the number of adult Internet users searching for health information has plateaued. It reports: “Harris said that changes in its survey methodology could account for the dip, but its overall finding was that growth in the percentage of adult Internet users who looked for health information online had leveled off.”

It is not believed this is a reflection in the quality of the information. Harris found that “respondents were largely credulous about the health information they found online: 86% of online health searchers said the information they located on the Internet was reliable.”

So doctors will not get a reprieve of patients researching their symptoms on the Internet before fronting up to their surgery!

Google the tool of choice for Australian doctors

A study published in this month’s Australian Family Physician shows that more than half of Australian general practitioners use the Internet during a consultation, and Google is the most common website they visit, at a rate higher than the next five most popular websites combined.

More than half of all respondents (56%) – and every one of the doctors surveyed in the 20-30 age group – used the Internet during consultations. Looks like the millions spent by the government offering free broadband to GPs all around Australia has had some payoff, with 93% of respondents using broadband in their practice and only 3% on dial-up. Interestingly, only 63% of the GPs said they used email at work (though 92% used it at home) – more work to be done to move to email consultations (aside from reimbursement issues).

Ninety per cent used a clinical software package, with 98% of those using the package for prescribing, 85% to order tests and 64% to record progress notes.

The study was conducted by Edith Cowan University and was based on 1,186 surveys from the Osborne Division of General Practice in Perth.