Volume 93, Issue 35

Tuesday, November 2, 1999


New study aims to put doctors online

Journals to boost subscriptions

Guelph U's land plans anger students

Sculpture to be displayed on hill

2001 Census to include questions on sexuality

Theft and crank call-filled week


Buzz Mecca

New study aims to put doctors online

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

A new online study unveiled over the weekend has physicians hoping for a lot less waiting and a lot more chatting – on the internet, that is.

According to Moira Stewart, director of Western's Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, an online discussion group for doctors to discuss latest medical practices would help solve problems doctors face as they study to sharpen their medical skills.

Online discussion groups mean doctors will no longer need to leave their office when collaborating with their peers via the internet.

"The basic gap that we're trying to fill is the one left by traditional education for family physicians. Traditional continuing education for family physicians, usually a convention or a course, means they have leave their practice, drive somewhere and stay a night. Traditional education for family physicians is not working," she said.

"It's very innovative. It'll be a way to evaluate yet another strategy to facilitate practice guidelines," said Stewart Harris, a professor of family medicine at Western.

The effectiveness of the online format will be studied for the next two years, said Marcel Chartrand, director of communications for the Medical Research Council of Canada.

She explained the MRCC put the project through a rigorous review before giving it the green light. "A committee of peers reviewed it and the project was rated according to relevance," he said. "It was rated as an excellent project and that's why it was funded."

Chartrand said the two-year study, focusing on 73 physicians in the Southwestern Ontario area, would come at a total cost of $167,000. The study is entirely funded by the MRCC.

Harris said the study would divide the 73 physicians into two groups, each learning about different case studies. "This is intended to facilitate more convenience for the participants. Whenever you have the time to think about it, you can just log on," he said.

The study would quicken the process of medical research being applied to patients, Chartrand added. "It's fine to do basic research but it has to be applicable to patients. This project would bring doctors across the table and bring an element of translation from the bench side to clinical application," he said.

John Feightner, chair of the Canadian Taskforce on Preventative Health Care at London's Parkwood Hospital, said a main concern for the study would be to gauge how well the online format allows doctors to communicate.

Stewart said she also thought the move online may prove problematic, but easily solved. "That would immediately be taken care of by the person saying 'No. This is how to implement it'," she said.

"What you gain is discussion among people very much in the same world and [who are solving] problems that are very realistic," she added.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999