We received responses from 491 of the 1695 physicians contacted, resulting in a response rate of 28.97%. However, 6 respondents self-classified as nonpracticing physicians were removed and a sample of 485 was analyzed (186 oncologists and 299 primary care physicians; ). To assess response bias, we compared the results on key attitudinal questions and demographic variables between early and late responders. There were no significant differences between early and late responders, minimizing the concern of response bias in our sampling frame. To assess nonresponse bias, we compared the demographics of our sampling frame with the overall demographics of primary care physicians and oncologists in the United States and found no discernible differences, minimizing the threat of nonresponse bias.
The study was designed to understand at a granular level the current adoption and the intent to adopt social media for the exchange of information, advice, ideas, reports, and scientific discoveries with other physicians in the medical community. shows what applications and platforms were being used by respondents. By providing a list of specific applications within the survey, our intent was to underscore the broader definition of social media used within the TAM analyses. Across all applications, awareness was high with 78%–98% of respondents claiming to be aware of the application. Current use varied on an application-specific basis from 33 of 485 (6.8%) for Twitter to 252 of 485 (52.0%) for online physician-only communities (such as Sermo, Ozmosis, or medical society membership sites). For each application there was a subset of respondents (between 5% and 33%) who claimed that they “will never use” the application for the exchange of information, advice, ideas, reports, and scientific discoveries with other physicians in the medical community. But for most applications (except restricted online communities), the largest portion of the respondents identified themselves as currently unlikely or unsure about their intent to use.
Respondents' current use and intention to use social media.
shows the frequency distribution of social media usage. Respondents indicated how frequently they (1) were using social media to contribute medical knowledge to other physicians, (2) were using social media to seek specific information about a medical problem or situation, and (3) were using social media to scan or explore medical knowledge for new insights. Overall, 117 of 485 (24.1%) of respondents used social media daily to scan or explore medical information, whereas 69 of 485 (14.2%) contributed new information via social media on a daily basis. These numbers rose to 296 of 485 (61.0%) scanning and 223 of 485 (46%) contributing once a week or more.
Physicians' frequency of using social media to contribute medical knowledge to other physicians, to seek specific information about a medical problem or situation, and to scan or explore medical knowledge for new insights.
Among the variables that TAM explores is the general attitudes that respondents have toward the usefulness of social media for the exchange of information, advice, ideas, reports, and scientific discoveries with other physicians in the medical community. (part A) shows how respondents felt about the use of social media along 3 dimensions: perceived risk, perceived usefulness, and perceived quality of information. Approximately one-third of respondents found social media to be an essential use of time, to be beneficial, and to return high-quality information. (part B) shows how respondents perceived their engagement and use of social media to affect their competency and clinical performance. Approximately 60% of respondents (281 of 485) stated that social media enabled them to care for patients more effectively and improved the quality of patient care they delivered (291 of 485).
Figure 4 Respondents expressed how they felt about the use of social media along 3 dimensions: perceived risk, perceived usefulness, and perceived quality of information (part A). Part B shows how respondents perceived their engagement and use of social media (more ...)
shows the correlations between constructs and the variance inflation factors. Although the majority of correlations were modest, 2 variables were very strongly correlated with the perceptions of usefulness of the technology: attitudes toward usage (.80) and frequency of usage (.72). These variables indicate that respondents who had strong positive attitudes about using social media and had found using social media to be useful in enhancing their performance and patient care were significantly more likely to be frequent users of social media.
Correlation between variables and variance inflation factors (VIFs).
shows results from the hierarchical regression analysis. In the first step that included the demographic variables, the only significant predictor of usage was years since medical school, indicating the physicians who were younger were likely to use social media more frequently; however, the amount of variance explained was less than 2%. The control variable for specialty was not significant, indicating that there were no significant differences in the frequency of usage patterns between oncologists and primary care physicians. In step 2, we added the barriers and individual factors to the model. The amount of variance explained in the frequency of usage increased to 43%, with the variables personal innovativeness and gaining access to influential peers being the key predictors. Age was no longer significant, however, but gender became significant in step 2.
Hierarchical regression results (standardized beta).
In step 3, the final model, we explained 57% of the variance in frequency of usage. The demographic variables were no longer significant. Barriers, which was not significant in the first 2 steps, became significant but in a positive direction. This is surprising given that barriers to use has a significant negative bivariate correlation with usage frequency, and intuitively we expected that the higher the barriers to usage, the less frequently physicians would use social media. This indicates that once attitudes toward social media and perceptions of its usefulness and ease of use are taken into account, respondents frequently use social media even though the perceived barriers are high. The ability to gain access to influential peers remained significant, indicating that respondents would use social media more frequently because they are motivated by accessing learning and decision-making resources based on the collective knowledge of their peers. Positive attitudes toward social media usage and perceptions about its ease of use and usefulness were also significant predictors of usage frequency.
Although specialty was not significant in the hierarchical regression model, one of the goals of this research was to determine whether there were differences not only in the frequency of social media usage, but also in the predictors explaining usage frequency. These data suggest that oncologists are more likely to be influenced by motivations of personal innovativeness, while primary care physicians are more likely to be influenced by having access to peers (). Both groups were influenced by positive attitudes toward social media, ease of use, and usefulness.