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Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

W. Hal Knight

Committee Members

Russell F. West, Joellen B. Edwards, Jasmine R. Renner, Fred Tudiver


The Internet offers potential for reducing professional isolation of Appalachian health care providers by enhancing access to medical information and facilitating contact with colleagues. However, there is a gap in the knowledge of current computer and Internet access in Appalachia, and in the technology-related behaviors and attitudes of health care professionals there. This study examined Internet-related access and behaviors of Appalachian family physicians and advanced practice nurses.

A survey was mailed to 429 graduates of East Tennessee State University's family medicine residency and advanced practice nursing programs currently in practice in southern and central Appalachia. Demographic information was collected from ETSU graduate records. The Dillman survey method included a pre-notice letter, two survey mailings, and post card and telephone follow-ups. Two hundred sixty-four providers (61.5%) returned surveys. Data were analyzed using SPSS.

Respondents were similar to the total population in gender, provider discipline, age, and percentage in rural practice. Workplace computer access was common; 59.6% had sole access and 40.2% shared access. Internet access was: 82.7% broadband, 13.5% dial-up, and 2.4% no access. Although rural providers were more likely than urban to have slower dial-up access, they regularly used the Internet. Over 75% of providers accessed the Internet at home for work; 34% reported dial-up and 66% broadband home connection. Although 50% used the Internet for continuing education in 2004, most preferred in-person workshops or print-based modes of continuing education; 58.9% e-mailed daily and 80% accessed medical information via the Internet regularly. Other Internet uses included accessing online journals and patient information, receiving professional association updates, filing insurance, and writing prescriptions. The Internet is ubiquitous in Appalachia; health care providers access it for a variety of professional activities daily. Telemedicine was not a popular technological innovation. Of those 20.8% reporting telemedicine availability in the practice, few used it. When presented with a list of possible benefits of telemedicine, 41.1% selected "none of the above".

Although many technological innovations are used regularly by Appalachian health care providers, barriers to the use of new technologies lie more in attitudes than in technology access.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.