Public Access and Use of Health Research: An Exploratory Study of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy Using Interviews and Surveys of Health Personnel :
« Background: In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy mandated open access for publications resulting from NIH funding (following a 12-month embargo). The large increase in access to research that will take place in the years to come has potential implications for evidence-based practice (EBP) and lifelong learning for health personnel.
Objective: This study assesses health personnel’s current use of research to establish whether grounds exist for expecting, preparing for, and further measuring the impact of the NIH Public Access Policy on health care quality and outcomes in light of time constraints and existing information resources.
Methods: In all, 14 interviews and 90 surveys of health personnel were conducted at a community-based clinic and an independent teaching hospital in 2010. Health personnel were asked about the research sources they consulted and the frequency with which they consulted these sources, as well as motivation and search strategies used to locate articles, perceived level of access to research, and knowledge of the NIH Public Access Policy.
Results: In terms of current access to health information, 65% (57/88) of the health personnel reported being satisfied, while 32% (28/88) reported feeling underserved. Among the sources health personnel reported that they relied upon and consulted weekly, 83% (73/88) reported turning to colleagues, 77% (67/87) reported using synthesized information resources (eg, UpToDate and Cochrane Systematic Reviews), while 32% (28/88) reported that they consulted primary research literature. The dominant resources health personnel consulted when actively searching for health information were Google and Wikipedia, while 27% (24/89) reported using PubMed weekly. The most prevalent reason given for accessing research on a weekly basis, reported by 35% (31/88) of survey respondents, was to help a specific patient, while 31% (26/84) were motivated by general interest in research.
Conclusions: The results provide grounds for expecting the NIH Public Access Policy to have a positive impact on EBP and health care more generally given that between a quarter and a third of participants in this study (1) frequently accessed research literature, (2) expressed an interest in having greater access, and (3) were aware of the policy and expect it to have an impact on their accessing research literature in the future. Results also indicate the value of promoting a greater awareness of the NIH policy, providing training and education in the location and use of the literature, and continuing improvements in the organization of biomedical research for health personnel use. »