Using Scientific Evidence to Improve Information Practice
Society is concerned about access to high-quality health care at reasonable cost. Increasing numbers of health care leaders recognize the importance of information to excellent, affordable care. Clinical decisions should be based on the scientific evidence traditionally recorded in the health sciences literature. The development and use of evidence-based practice guidelines demand a sophisticated analysis of the literature, creative ways of delivering information to practitioners at the point of care, and an understanding of the effect of information on practice patterns and costs. There is a growing need for computer-based patient record systems that can generate new scientific knowledge as a by-product of current care.
While health care institutions look for better ways to conduct local health services research and to apply the results of research to practice, the amount of evidence-based information continues to expand, and the options for organizing and disseminating it multiply. In the electronic era, the number of potential "publishers" is unbounded, and the very concepts of publication and database are changing. New electronic formats have not replaced traditional printed forms of recorded knowledge but have simply increased the range of information products available. The application of the emerging National Information Infrastructure to health care, education, and library services opens up new opportunities for enhanced information delivery but also raises serious policy questions related to security, privacy, and intellectual property rights.
As managers of scientific knowledge, health sciences librarians play a key role in helping health care professionals find scientific evidence that is applicable to individual practice decisions or to the complex task of developing clinical practice guidelines. As information professionals, librarians must develop their own evidence-based information practice, identifying the methods and technologies that will provide the most cost-effective and high-quality service in different health care, education, and research contexts.
As part of the health care enterprise, librarians should apply their research knowledge base to a broad range of information management and policy problems facing the health care community. There is a vital need to apply information technology, theory, and practice not only to organizing, filtering, and delivering scientific knowledge but also to organizing, managing, and safeguarding patient-specific data; to linking patient data to scientific knowledge; and to aggregating and analyzing patient data within and across institutions.
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 June 06