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The Role of Librarians and Informaticians on the Health Care Team

The author sets the stage nicely in this editorial piece in Academic Medicine:


Today, more information is available than ever before, and medicine has become deeply complex. Most physicians would say they are proficient at using the Internet and bibliographic databases to find information to inform decisions, but there is significant evidence to the contrary. Research continues to show a disconnect between the information physicians need and the information they retrieve: Physicians have two questions for every three patients but use information retrieval systems fewer than nine times per month; most physician-conducted searches retrieve only 25% to 50% of relevant articles; doctors have difficulty reading and interpreting medical research; physicians may overgeneralize findings and may incorrectly apply those findings in clinical practice; adverse clinical outcomes have arisen from these difficulties in interpreting and applying research evidence; and, when physicians try to answer questions, they are almost as likely to make an incorrect conclusion as a correct conclusion.

Because physicians report there is too much information and it takes too long to search for the correct answer, they often “satisfice,” or take the fastest, easiest answer when faced with uncertainty. This is unfortunate, as Weightman and Williamson's systematic review on the impact of library services on health outcomes indicated that when health care providers used professional library services, the result was improved general patient care, diagnosis, choice of tests, choice of therapy, and reduced stay. Clearly educating physicians in how to appropriately use information resources could lead to improved health outcomes.

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