Impact of electronic knowledge resources on clinical and learning outcomes: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Lauren A. Maggio, Christopher A. Aakre, Guilherme Del Fiol, Jane Shellum, David Allan Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Background: Clinicians use electronic knowledge resources, such as Micromedex, UpToDate, and Wikipedia, to deliver evidence-based care and engage in point-of-care learning. Despite this use in clinical practice, their impact on patient care and learning outcomes is incompletely understood. A comprehensive synthesis of available evidence regarding the effectiveness of electronic knowledge resources would guide clinicians, health care system administrators, medical educators, and informaticians in making evidence-based decisions about their purchase, implementation, and use. Objective: The aim of this review is to quantify the impact of electronic knowledge resources on clinical and learning outcomes. Methods: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library for articles published from 1991 to 2017. Two authors independently screened studies for inclusion and extracted outcomes related to knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, patient effects, and cost. We used random-effects meta-analysis to pool standardized mean differences (SMDs) across studies. Results: Of 10,811 studies screened, we identified 25 eligible studies published between 2003 and 2016. A total of 5 studies were randomized trials, 22 involved physicians in practice or training, and 10 reported potential conflicts of interest. A total of 15 studies compared electronic knowledge resources with no intervention. Of these, 7 reported clinician behaviors, with a pooled SMD of 0.47 (95% CI 0.27 to 0.67; P<.001), and 8 reported objective patient effects with a pooled SMD of 0.19 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.32; P=.003). Heterogeneity was large (I2>50%) across studies. When compared with other resources-7 studies, not amenable to meta-analytic pooling-the use of electronic knowledge resources was associated with increased frequency of answering questions and perceived benefits on patient care, with variable impact on time to find an answer. A total of 2 studies compared different implementations of the same electronic knowledge resource. Conclusions: Use of electronic knowledge resources is associated with a positive impact on clinician behaviors and patient effects. We found statistically significant associations between the use of electronic knowledge resources and improved clinician behaviors and patient effects. When compared with other resources, the use of electronic knowledge resources was associated with increased success in answering clinical questions, with variable impact on speed. Comparisons of different implementation strategies of the same electronic knowledge resource suggest that there are benefits from allowing clinicians to choose to access the resource, versus automated display of resource information, and from integrating patient-specific information. A total of 4 studies compared different commercial electronic knowledge resources, with variable results. Resource implementation strategies can significantly influence outcomes but few studies have examined such factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13315
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Clinical decision support
  • Educational technology
  • Health information technology
  • Information systems
  • Medical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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