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Editorials

The first generation of e-patients

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7449.1148 (Published 13 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1148

... and the first generation of e-medical students

We read with great interest the editorial of T Ferguson and G Frydman
on the emergence of the first generation of e-patients in the developed
countries (1). It is interesting to note that a similar phenomenon is
occurring at the same time, as regards the progressive acquisition of e-
learning by undergraduate medical students.

Since 1993, the Rouen University Faculty of Medicine has implemented
the problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum for second and third year
students. The "vital distress syndrome" (VDS) PBL is taught in the second-
year of the medical curriculum (students between 19-21 years old). During
VSD PBL tutorials, a student evaluation questionnaire was used to
routinely collected information on teaching resources, self-reported
utilisation and the site of Internet access (i.e. home). Moreover, we
compared our results with the National Survey for Internet connection,
regularly conducted since 2000 in the general population in France
(permanent survey of living standards) (2). The same year students ranged
between 98 in 2000 and 135 students in 2004.

In 2000, 14.0% of the students, 15.8% in 2001, 12.2% in 2002, 12.7%
in 2003 and 32.0% in 2004 used teaching resources on Internet for VDS PBL
curriculum. Among these, 4.8% in 2000, 7.7% in 2001, 7.2% in 2002 and 9.4%
in 2003 indicated that they had access to web at home. By comparison, 12%
in 2000, 18% in 2001, 23% in 2002 and 28% in 2003 of the French general
population was connected to Internet at home (2).

Between 2000 and 2003, we observed a stabilisation of Internet
utilisation as a tool to support medical learning by the students, with a
major increase in use this year. This tendency should be confirmed in the
next few years, nevertheless there is an indication that routine use of
the Internet in successive cohorts of young medical students in France is
expected to expand. A linear and parallel progression of access to
Internet at home in the medical and in the French general population has
been observed, with the possibility of health access on the net for
patients (1). Our preliminary findings should encourage university
departments to train and to guide students to use Internet resources more
effectively. Further investigation is required to assess the impact of the
web learning in undergraduate medical students.

References:
1 - T Ferguson, G Frydman. The first generation of e-patients. BMJ 2004;
328: 1148-1149.

2 - INSEE. Measuring the growth in mobile telephone service and
access to Internet. INSEE première, May 2004.
http://www.insee.fr/fr/ffc/ficdoc_frame.asp?doc_id=1266&analyse=1&path=/...
(acceded 2004, May 26)

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 June 2004
Joel Ladner
MD, PhD, senior lecturer in public health
Francis Roussel, Christophe Girault, Louis Sibert, and Stéfan Darmoni
Rouen University Hospital, Rouen, France