Background: Nationally health systems are making increasing investments in the use of clinical information systems. Little is known about current computer use by specialist physicians, particularly outside the hospital setting. Aims: To identify the extent and reasons physician Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) use computers in their work. Methods: A self-administered survey was emailed from the RACP to all practising physicians in 2007 that were living in Australia and New Zealand who had consented to email contact with the College. Results: The survey was sent to a total of 7445 eligible physicians, 2328 physicians responded (31.3% response rate), but only 1266 responses (21.0%) were able to be analysed. Most 97.5% had access to computers at work and 96.5% used home computers for work purposes. Physicians in public hospitals (72.6%) were more likely to use computers for work (65.6%) than those in private hospitals (12.6%) or consulting rooms (27.3%). Overall physicians working in public hospitals used a wider range of applications with 70.5% using their computers for searching the internet, 53.7% for receiving results and 52.7% used their computers to engage in specific educational activities. Physicians working from their consulting rooms (33.6%) were more likely to use electronic prescribing (11%) compared with physicians working in public hospitals (5.7%). Conclusions: Fellows have not incorporated computers into their consulting rooms over which they have control. This is in contrast to general practitioners who have embraced computers after the provision of various incentives. The rate of use of computers by physicians for electronic prescribing in consulting rooms (11%) is very low in comparison with general practitioners (98%). One reason may be that physicians work in multiple locations whereas general practitioners are more likely to work from one location.