Evidence-based digital health tools allow clinicians to keep up with the expanding medical literature and provide safer and more accurate care. Understanding users’ online behavior in low-resource settings can inform programs that encourage the use of such tools. Our program collaborates with digital tool providers, including UpToDate, to facilitate free subscriptions for clinicians serving in low-resource settings globally.
We aimed to define segments of clinicians based on their usage patterns of UpToDate, describe the demographics of those segments, and relate the segments to self-reported professional climate measures.
We collected 12 months of clickstream data (a record of users’ clicks within the tool) as well as repeated surveys. We calculated the total number of sessions, time spent online, type of activity (navigating, reading, or account management), calendar period of use, percentage of days active online, and minutes of use per active day. We defined behavioral segments based on the distributions of these statistics and related them to survey data.
We enrolled 1681 clinicians from 75 countries over a 9-week period. We based the following five behavioral segments on the length and intensity of use: short-term, light users (420/1681, 25%); short-term, heavy users (252/1681, 15%); long-term, heavy users (403/1681, 24%); long-term, light users (370/1681, 22%); and never-users (252/1681, 15%). Users spent a median of 5 hours using the tool over the year. On days when users logged on, they spent a median of 4.4 minutes online and an average of 71% of their time reading medical content as opposed to navigating or managing their account. Over half (773/1432, 54%) of the users actively used the tool for 48 weeks or more during the 52-week study period. The distribution of segments varied by age, with lighter and less use among those aged 35 years or older compared to that among younger users. The speciality of medicine had the heaviest use, and emergency medicine had the lightest use. Segments varied strongly by geographic region. As for professional climate, most respondents (1429/1681, 85%) reported that clinicians in their area would view the use of a online tool positively, and compared to those who reported other views, these respondents were less likely to be never-users (286/1681, 17% vs 387/1681, 23%) and more likely to be long-term users (655/1681, 39% vs 370/1681, 22%).
We believe that these behavioral segments can help inform the implementation of digital health tools, identify users who may need assistance, tailor training and messaging for users, and support research on digital health efforts. Methods for combining clickstream data with demographic and survey data have the potential to inform global health implementation. Our forthcoming analysis will use these methods to better elucidate what drives digital health tool use.