Evaluation of internet access and utilization by medical students in Lahore, Pakistan
BACKGROUND:The internet is increasingly being used worldwide in imparting medical education and improving its delivery. It has become an important tool for healthcare professionals training but the data on its use by medical students in developing countries is lacking with no study on the subject from Pakistan. This study was, therefore, carried out with an aim to evaluate the pattern of internet access and utilization by medical students in Pakistan.METHODS:A structured pre-tested questionnaire was administered to a group of 750 medical students in clinical years studying at various public and private medical colleges in Lahore. The questions were related to patterns of internet access, purpose of use and self reported confidence in performing various internet related tasks, use of health related websites to supplement learning and the problems faced by students in using internet at the institution.RESULTS:A total of 532 medical students (70.9%) returned the questionnaire. The mean age of study participants was 21.04 years (SD 1.96 years). Majority of the respondents (84.0%) reported experience with internet use. About half of the students (42.1%) were using internet occasionally with 23.1%, 20.9% and 13.9% doing so frequently, regularly and rarely respectively. About two third of the students (61.0%) stated that they use internet for both academic and professional activities. Most of the participants preferred to use internet at home (70.5%). Self reported ability to search for required article from PubMed and PakMedinet was reported by only 34.0% of the entire sample. Students were moderately confident in performing various internet related tasks including downloading medical books from internet, searching internet for classification of diseases and downloading full text article. Health related websites were being accessed by 55.1% students to supplement their learning process. Lack of time, inadequate number of available computers and lack of support from staff were cited as the most common problems faced by students while accessing internet in the institution premises. There were significant differences among male and female students with respect to the place of internet use (p = 0.001) and the ability to search online databases for required articles (p = 0.014).CONCLUSIONS:Majority of the medical students in this study had access to internet and were using it for both academic and personal reasons. Nevertheless, it was seen that there is under utilization of the potential of internet resources to augment learning. Increase in awareness, availability of requisite facilities and training in computing skills are required to enable better utilization of digital resources of digital resources by medical students.