Musculoskeletal Health Professional Use of Internet Resources for Personal and Patient Education: Results from an Online National Survey

Michael Nicolaou 1, 2, Ray Armstrong 3, Andrew B Hassell 4, David Walker 5, Fraser Birrell*, 1, 5
1 Rheumatology, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation, Ashington, Northumberland, UK
2 Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
3 Department of Rheumatology, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
4 Medical School, Keele University, Keele, UK
5 Musculoskeletal Research Group, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

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© Nicolaou et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Musculoskeletal Research Group, 4th Floor Cookson Building, Framlington Place, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK; Tel: 0044-01670529903; Fax: 0044-01670529446; E-mail:



To study the current practice of computer use in musculoskeletal health professionals for their education and that of their patients.


A survey questionnaire, designed by a working group including representatives from Arthritis Research UK and the British Society for Rheumatology, was made available on and the link distributed by email.


190 health professionals responded. Rheumatology professionals made up two thirds of the participants. The modal age group of responders was under 40 years (37%). 97% had spent some educational time on a computer. Females were younger and spent more time using the computer for education purposes. The preferred learning modality was interactive online content (71%). The most common methods of educating patients were the Consultant and Specialist nurse while the web is used by 40% of the health professionals. The most common barrier to education was ‘Insufficient resources for education groups’. Rheumatologists were more likely to log Continuous Professional Development (CPD) online, complete online modules and have mandatory training online. UpToDate and Arthritis Research UK were the highest rated websites for health professional and patient education respectively.


This is the first national survey of E-learning in the musculoskeletal health profession, with a large proportion of Rheumatologists. Almost all use computer based learning. Use of the internet for patient education is low. Highly rated educational websites are available for both professionals and patients.

Keywords: Computers, health, internet, musculoskeletal, education, e-learning..