Would it be a surprise to know that medical students use Google to help them diagnoses, treat, and manage their patients.A new survey published in Academic Medicine shows that 68 percent of residents use Google for locating Web sites and general information about diseases and Google Scholar to help treat and manage decisions or locating a journal article.

By comparison, 80 percent of residents said they used UpToDate (an evidence-based, physician-authored clinical knowledge database) at least daily and 77 percent of residents frequently consult with faculty, according to the survey. Sixty-two percent of residents say they used resources like Chochrane, Guidelines.gov, and TRIP database less frequently (no more than one time a month).

Residents indicated that they consider multiple factors when deciding whether or not to choose a particular resource at the point-of-care (POC). “Speed, trust in the quality of information, and portability were the biggest drivers of resource selection for the participants in our study,” the authors wrote in the survey report.

The survey findings also note that 68 percent of residents report using the Google general search engine for point-of-care decision making compared to 41 percent who use Google Scholar. Furthermore, when residents were asked how often their Google search results in an answer to their question, 43 percent answered “often,” 40% answered “sometimes,” and 2% answered “always” or “never.”

The survey involved responses from 167 residents from three internal medicine residency programs at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Medicine, and Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fifty-three respondents were in their first year of residency, 45 were in their second year, 47 were in their third year, and 9 were “other” (fourth year or higher).

“Our study findings suggest that residents prefer electronic resources for answering questions at the POC, with UpToDate and Google being the most commonly used resources for medical decision making,” the study authors concluded. “It is clear that the responding residents favored speed, trust, and portability in their resources used at the POC.”

The study authors did point out limitations of their study and reported that 1.) because their survey involved only three internal medicine residency programs, it may not be generalizable to all of graduate medical education and 2.) data collection was based on self-report of information-seeking behaviors.

To see the full results of the University of Minnesota survey, click here.