The Use of Computer by Medical Students in Chennai, India

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Jha P, Paul L, Ojha P, Sen S, Sinha N
(Final year students Bachelors of Hospital Administration, Institute of Management Studies, Devi Ahilya University, Indore)
(Survey done for Medical Computer Society of India in 2003)


The use of computer technology in medical education, research, treatment, and many other areas has increased in the healthcare industry, making its use by professionals almost mandatory. The cities of Chennai, Banglore and Hyderabad are considered the golden triangle for Information Technology (IT) in India. However, the computer literacy level among healthcare professionals in this region is still unknown. To evaluate this, a pilot survey was conducted in Chennai by means of a questionnaire titled, ‘The use of computer by healthcare professionals’.

A total of 400 medical students were surveyed. Sampling was equally distributed (200 students each) among UG and PG medical students and disproportionate stratified random sampling was used for the study.

UG and PG medical students were found to have good skills with regard to Internet and e-mail usage. Majority of UG and PG medical students were seen to have developed a positive attitude towards computers and their usage. However, the majority of them were found not to use the computer for research, conference or chat. Google and Yahoo seemed to be the most favorite search engine for this group.

There is certainly an increased use of computer among healthcare professionals in India. The study concluded that although majority of both the UG and PG medical students in a hi- tech city like Chennai have some basic grasp of computer and internet, they lacked middle level and advanced computer skills to be able to design studies for computer- related healthcare programmes. A proactive approach by the medical council of India will initiate greater application of Information Technology in the health- care industry in India.


In our fast developing world, the emerging need of computer knowledge has made an impact in every field, including the medical world . There is rampant use of computer technology in patient management, education, conference and many other tenets of the health-care industry. This makes it almost mandatory for the healthcare professionals to be well versed with this technology. Although the computers have now been adopted, adapted and absorbed in almost all the areas in India’s healthcare, little is known about the computer literacy level among healthcare professionals. To evaluate this, a survey was conducted by means of a questionnaire entitled, ‘The use of computer by healthcare professionals in Chennai city’.

This study is the of first of its kind in India and it aims to identify the degree to which computers have impacted the healthcare industry. Use of computers in health care will enhance decision-making, management planning and medical research, which will eventually improve the quality of patient care.


This pilot study was done with the following objectives:

  1. To assess the use of computers among UG and PG medical students.
  2. To evaluate the proficiency in basic software program such as word-processing, power point, database, spreadsheet, e-mail and Internet.
  3. To assess the knowledge of computer operating system among the study group
  4. To evaluate keyboard usage skills.
  5. To identify the type(s) of search engine used for Internet and the purpose for which it was used (news, conference, research, and chat).


This population- based cross-sectional study was carried out using disproportionate stratified sampling technique. The survey covered a sample of Undergraduate and Postgraduate medical professionals.

An initial validation survey was conducted on fifty medical students to test the questionnaires and the required changes were inducted in the questionnaire.

The questionnaire was bereft of any technical details and was designed to be simple and easy to understand. In order to make the respondents comfortable with the questions, general questions, related to computers, were asked first. The personnel details were left to the end, as it was felt that any weariness on the part of the respondents was unlikely to affect these answers.

The respondents were given a choice of answers and were only expected to mark the answers with a tick or a cross. Using this method it was expected that the questionnaire would produce a high response rate. The scaling technique that was used was ‘LIKERT SCALE’ in order to decrease the number of mixed responses. This would also ensure that the resulting data would truly reflect the objectivity of the questionnaire. The language used in the questionnaire was English. The answers that were generated from the questionnaires were fed into Excel spreadsheet programme. Using ‘multivariate analysis’, interesting arrays of results were obtained. The test was used to detect an association between the educational qualification and computer experience of respondents at the 5% level of significance.

Total sample size was 400.
Undergraduate medical students=200
Postgraduate medical students=200
The unit of analysis = Healthcare professionals, above 18yrs of age.
The field of work= Leading medical colleges in Chennai
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