While the potential utility of computer technology to medicine is often acknowledged, little is known as to the best methods to actually teach physicians about computers. The current variability in physician computer fluency implies there is no accepted minimum required level of computer skills for physicians. Special techniques are needed to instill these skills in the physician and measure their effects within the medical profession. This hypothesis is suggested following the development of a specialized course for the new physician. In a population of physicians where medical computing usage was considered nonexistent, intense interest developed the following exposure to a role model having strong credentials in both medicine and computer science. This produced an atmosphere where there was a perceived benefit in being knowledgeable about the medical computer usage. The subsequent increase in computer systems use was the result of the availability of resources and development of computer skills that could be exchanged among the students and faculty. This growth in computer use is described using the parameters of an infectious process model. While other approaches may also be useful, the infectious process model permits the growth of medical computer usage to be quantitatively described, evaluates specific determinants of use patterns, and allows the future growth of computer utilization in medicine to be predicted.
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