Upstate News

April 25, 2002
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate Medical University to survey Madison County health care professionals on email and Internet use

A team of researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University will survey more than 500 Madison County health care professionals to see whether email and the Internet are tools of their trade.

The CAIR survey (Caregiver Access to Information Resources) will be conducted by researchers at SUNY Upstate’s Health Sciences Library led by Diane Davis, head of reference services, and Kathleen Hughes, Ph.D., circuit medical librarian for the Central New York Library region.

Davis and Hughes will survey physicians, nurses, technicians, mental health professionals and others from May through September. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, clinics and private practice offices will be included in the survey.

“Anecdotally we know that there is a significant number of health care professionals, especially in the more rural areas, that do not have access to email and the Internet,” Hughes said. “This survey will give us an accurate account of where these technology shortages are.”

Hughes said the absence of email or Internet services at the workplace in many rural areas may put many health care professionals at a disadvantage. “Email and the Internet are ubiquitous in health care today. Health care professionals who have access to these tools have an enormous resource at their disposal,” she said.

The Internet is a valuable resource for making contacts and obtaining health information, she said. “Many medical journals are now available online and can be authoritative sources for breaking medical news,” Hughes said.

She noted that recent national surveys have shown the Internet to be an extremely useful tool to expand the medical knowledge of consumers. “In some cases, the health care consumer gets the information before the practitioner, and that’s because of the Internet.”

The major obstacle to email and Internet access is funding, Hughes said. “Many small medical operations have neither the resources to put the technology in place nor the personnel to maintain it,” she said. “However, a lack of familiarity with the Internet on the part of the health care professional may create a further disadvantage.”

Hughes said the survey findings will be used to help plan training programs and to draw attention to areas without service. She said various training centers, such as area education agencies and even SUNY Upstate Medical University, may be able to assist in creating programming and training for medical personnel.

Researchers hopes to expand the Madison County survey to the 19 counties that make up Central New York.

The CAIR survey is funded through the federal program AHEC, (Area Health Education Centers). AHEC seeks to provide and maintain a pool of health care professionals in underserved areas through community and academic partnerships. AHEC’s Central New York office is located in SUNY Upstate’s Department of Family Medicine. Community-based centers in Potsdam and Cortland have been established for the purpose of developing local programs to support AHEC’s mission.

Individuals who are interested in the CAIR survey, should contact the program office at 315-464-7084.

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