Information-seeking needs and behaviours of complementary health (chiropractic) practitioners and students
Background: Research into the information-seeking behaviours and needs of alternative and complementary health professionals continues to be limited. Interest in complementary medicine is growing worldwide, reflected in New Zealand by the increase in numbers of practitioners, and the demand for accessible, reliable information and resources by professionals and consumers grows also. Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the information seeking behaviours (access, sources, frequency of search, and motivation) and needs (research, practice or education) of students and professionals in one area of complementary health (chiropractic), and by investigating their reported practices and preferences identify their requirements, preferred approaches and any barriers that may limit their information-seeking. The intention is to use the information to assess a possible requirement for information services and information skills programmes for practitioners in the community and to add to the small body of research on information use among CAM professionals. Methods: The research project surveyed a random sample of both students and registered chiropractic practitioners by questionnaire and interview. The mailed questionnaire included twenty question intended to elicit information on the information-seeking behaviours of the respondents, with interview questions expanding on these responses. Results: Although the response was very low at 41.1%, (a known risk in survey research), results indicated that the information needs and behaviours of chiropractic professionals is similar to that of other health professionals. Respondents used the Internet and books frequently, but were unlikely to use databases or a library when seeking information. Respondents were generally confident in their skills but often lacked confidence in the information they located. Conclusions: Although the chiropractic field is quite narrow in scope, chiropractors' information seeking needs and behaviours are similar to those of other health professionals. They seek information regularly and use a number of sources, primarily for clinical reasons and for personal interest. They do not search for research-based information frequently and rely on the Internet, colleagues and their own collections to supply their main information needs. Although the results cannot reliably be extrapolated to the whole chiropractic community owing to the small scale of the survey, it appears that there is need to encourage the use of research-based information and to provide easier access to those resources contained in databases and libraries. As the overwhelming majority of chiropractors of all levels of experience use the Internet, the investigation of the provision of targeted web-based services and training in their use may be profitable. More precise investigation is required.