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Merck Manuals Survey: Medical Students Turn to Google, Medical Websites before Textbooks

KENILWORTH, N.J., April 10, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The next generation of physicians was raised with information at their fingertips, yet studying medicine in the age of Google Search comes with its own set of unique challenges. To uncover how the habits, preferences and tendencies of medical and pre-medical students have been shaped by growing up in the digital era, the Merck Manuals surveyed 180 students at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Annual Convention in February.

The survey found that 68 percent of students received their first cell phone by the time they were 14 years old. For many students, that's before they enter high school. And online tools have become ingrained into their study habits. Nearly one in three (30 percent) said they go online or use a mobile device to search for medical information more than 20 times per day.

"We live in a high-speed world," said David, student from Hillsborough Community College in Florida. "In the time it takes me to walk through a library door, I could have already downloaded exactly what I needed on my phone."

Students were also asked to rank their preferred sources of medical information. For their first choice, 47 percent picked Google and 32 percent chose a medical website–often those that appeared in the Google results. Only 7 percent turned first to their textbook.

Yet students admit the internet can be a minefield when it comes to finding reliable information. Eighty-three percent said confirming the credibility of an online source is one of the primary obstacles they face while searching for medical information online. Other hurdles students say they encounter include pay walls (39 percent), the recent surge in fake news (32 percent), and an overabundance of ads (24 percent).

Nearly all students surveyed (99 percent) affirmed that growing up in the digital age has impacted their medical education. When asked how:

  • 58 percent said they can more efficiently look up answers to questions
  • 19 percent said they can study anywhere, anytime
  • 13 percent believe they can more quickly adopt new technologies.

However, nine percent of students indicated that technology is primarily a distraction, calling attention to an important dynamic for many students.

Yet many students are actually using social media as a gateway to more visually compelling medical content. Forty-five percent of students said they have found YouTube a valuable resource for more visually compelling medical content.

"New technologies have transformed how students learn and train for their careers as physicians," said Robert S. Porter, M.D., Merck Manuals Editor-in-Chief. "But as our survey found, these students must navigate a changing and challenging digital world to find reliable information in the best format to meet their needs. It's important for providers of medical information to deliver on those needs to truly impact medical education and student growth for the future."

About The Merck Manuals
First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world's most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Merck Manual kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a program to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit MerckManuals.com and connect with us on social media:

For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook
For Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook

Methodology
The survey of 180 medical and pre-medical students was conducted at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Annual Convention in February 2017. For details on survey methodology, please contact Jamie Kloss at jamie@gobraithwaite.com. Learn more at MerckManuals.com.

About Merck
For over a century, Merck has been a global health care leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on TwitterFacebookYouTube and LinkedIn.

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