English language usage pattern in China mainland doctors: AME survey-001 initial analysis results

Zhongheng Zhang, Yì-Xiáng J. Wáng


Purpose: English is the most widely used language in medical community worldwide. Till now there is no study yet on how English language is being used among mainland Chinese doctors. The present survey aimed to address this question.
Methods: An online cross-sectional survey was carried out during the period of 23 Oct 2014 to 13 November 2014, totaling 22 days. This survey was conducted on the platform provided by DXY (www.dxy.cn), which is the largest medical and paramedical related website in China with registered medical doctor users of slightly more than one million. E-mails were sent to all DXY registered users to invite them to participate the survey which lasts approximately five-minute. The questionnaire included three major aspects: (I) the demographic characteristics of participants; (II) English reading pattern; and (III) paper publishing experience in international journals. To accommodate the complexity of relationships among variables, structural equation modeling (SEM) was employed to build the model.
Results: In total 1,663 DXY users completed the survey, which counted for ≈1% of the total registered medical doctor users. There were more participants from relatively economically developed eastern coast areas. The age of participants was 33.6±7.4 years. There were 910 respondents from teaching hospitals (54.72%), followed by tertiary care hospitals (class-III hospital, 22.37%). Mainland Chinese doctors were more likely to consult medical materials in Chinese (63.5%) when they encounter clinical difficulties. Participants who were able to list English journals of their own specialty up to four were 44.02% for 0, 13.77% for one journal, 13.89% for two journals, 9.26% for three journals, and 19.06% for four journals. Most participants (82.86%) have read at least one English paper or one professional book in English, while 17.14% responded they never read a single English paper or professorial book in English. About 30.42% participants published at least one paper in English journals, and approximately half of them require professional English editing service.
Conclusions: This limited survey shows Mainland Chinese doctors are more likely to use Chinese medical materials. Overall their familiarity with international English journals is relatively low. Improving English education at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels is recommended.