Use and utility of Web-based residency program information: A survey of residency applicants

Peter J. Embi, Sima Desai, Thomas G. Cooney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background: The Internet has become essential to the residency application process. In recent years, applicants and residency programs have used the Internet-based tools of the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP, the Match) and the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) to process and manage application and Match information. In addition, many residency programs have moved their recruitment information from printed brochures to Web sites. Despite this change, little is known about how applicants use residency program Web sites and what constitutes optimal residency Web site content, information that is critical to developing and maintaining such sites. Objective: To study the use and perceived utility of Web-based residency program information by surveying applicants to an internal medicine program. Methods: Our sample population was the applicants to the Oregon Health & Science University Internal Medicine Residency Program who were invited for an interview. We solicited participation using the group e-mail feature available through the Electronic Residency Application Service Post-Office application. To minimize the possibility for biased responses, the study was confined to the period between submission of National Residency Matching Program rank-order lists and release of Match results. Applicants could respond using an anonymous Web-based form or by reply to the e-mail solicitation. We tabulated responses, calculated percentages for each, and performed a qualitative analysis of comments. Results: Of the 431 potential participants, 218 responded (51%) during the study period. Ninety-nine percent reported comfort browsing the Web; 52% accessed the Web primarily from home. Sixty-nine percent learned about residency Web sites primarily from residency-specific directories while 19% relied on general directories. Eighty percent found these sites helpful when deciding where to apply, 69% when deciding where to interview, and 36% when deciding how to rank order programs for the Match. Forty-nine percent found sites most useful in deciding where to apply, while 40% found them most useful while preparing for their interviews. Seventy-two percent felt that a "complete" Web site could substitute for a mailed printed brochure. Qualitative analysis identified additional important information needs. Conclusions: Applicants are turning to residency Web sites for information during critical phases of the application process. Though usually helpful, many of these sites are felt to be incomplete and may not be meeting important applicant information needs. These findings should be useful to those involved in residency recruitment efforts and in counseling applicants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-95
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Career choice
  • Education
  • Graduate
  • Internet
  • Internship and residency
  • Job application
  • Medical
  • Pamphlets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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