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A Study on National Taiwan University Hospital Physicians' Personal Information Management Processes
Personal Information Management
Personal knowledge Management
Personal Information Management Tools
Health professionals, like the general public, now rely heavily on digitalized information and the Internet as their main sources of information. Effective collection and storage of information for easy retrieval is crucial for physicians, with their hectic schedules, as well as for institutions that provide medical information services. This study aims to identify the key behavioral features of how physicians manage information, and to examine their use of personal information management tools. Up to the present, research in this area has mainly focused on information needs of physicians, on how they seek and use information, and especially on how they acquire information from external sources. This study, on the other hand, examines physicians’ information behavior in terms of processes, use of tools, and behavior patterns. Its objective is to investigate how physicians, after acquiring information from external sources, manage their personal information space and the information they have collected. The target group of this study consisted of physicians serving at National Taiwan University Hospital. The study was conducted via questionnaires, interviews, and observation. A questionnaire was designed, after a review of the literature and some preliminary research, to generate a profile of the respondents’ personal information management processes and their use of available tools. The questionnaire was administered using quota sampling procedures. A total of 164 questionnaires were returned. In addition, six physicians, who agreed to let the researcher examine the structure of their personal computerized catalog system, were selected through purpose sampling for observation and interviewing, to enable the researcher to better understand their personal information management processes and identify possible factors involved in the choices they made. The participants also provided concrete examples of how they used information management software. The main findings of this study are as follows. (1) Regarding factors that affect physicians’ decisions when storing information: the main considerations are the urgency, relevance, and availability/accessibility of the information, along with the likelihood of future need for the information. PDF is the preferred format for saving information. (2) Regarding how doctors organize the information they collect: most doctors name their documents based on clues related to the context in which they may need to refind or reaccess the information. (3) Regarding how doctors try to refind information: they were found mostly to simply browse through their files. Consequently, labeled filing is still their main information organizing strategy. (4) Regarding storage and distribution strategies for information of a personal nature: doctors are more cautious when storing personal information, and they usually save multiple back-up copies of the same data. When it comes to sharing or distributing personal information and knowledge, they tend to be relatively conservative. (5) Regarding the main nature of information management tasks: as the doctors rise in rank and position or as they receive higher academic degrees, their main concern in personal information management gradually shifts from acquiring information to storing, organizing, and refinding information. (6) Regarding individual doctors’ personal information management processes: these vary according to gender, age, rank, cognitive factors, type of information saved, nature of the task at hand, past experience in submitting academic papers for publication, and the software and hardware used to organize and store information. In terms of demographic variables, rank has the most impact on information management choices, and gender, the least. However, in terms of the use of personal information management tools, including software and hardware, no demographic variables were found to translate into differences in the use of email, Web bookmarks, and Web hard drives. (7) Regarding the key personal information management tools needed by doctors: these include calendars, document management software, and a desktop search system. (8) Regarding how doctors choose their Information Management tools: doctors tend to stick with a specific personal information management tool according to its effectiveness, ease of use, and time-saving qualities. There is a significant correspondence between the level of satisfaction with a tool and its frequency of use. Based on these findings, this study offers concrete suggestions for improvements in information management strategies that doctors, medical information centers such as libraries, and developers of software, hardware, and databases can consider adopting.
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