A letter to the Harvard Business Review, Dec 2016

Dear Harvard Business Review,

Your Dec. 19th article, “How Physicians Can Keep Up With The Knowledge Explosion in Medicine”, authored by Dr. Lynda Chin and Greg Satell is an opportunity for you to consider inviting authors to publish well-researched articles about the roles of medical librarians in the medical information ‘ecosystem’.

While it is true that there is an explosion of research and clinical trials in medicine, the information explosion can be seen across society and in many other professions beyond medicine. In fact, it is no news to anyone that we live in an era of Google and speedy access to medical information of all kinds (and so little of it, by the way, can be viewed as authoritative or applicable to patients at all).

All librarians, and medical librarians in particular, are acutely aware of the important roles they assume in the information age. Medicine, as a scientific field of inquiry, is not immune from the scourge of disinformation and fake news. Some of your readers may be interested to know, for example, that librarians of all stripes are engaged every day in teaching physicians about this information ecosystem so that they can make their own assessments of it. Dr. Chin’s point about the value of business analytics in medicine and automated forms of knowledge syntheses is not lost on medical librarians; we assess, provide access to and teach physicians how to use a wide array of knowledge synthesis and information sources from PubMed and UpToDate to DynaMed and the Cochrane Library.

As some of the contributed comments to the Chin and Satell (2016) piece illustrate, medical librarians are keen to point out the value that we bring to the ‘medical information ecosystem’. We understand that the return on investment re: medical librarians and high-quality sources of information must be demonstrated – and we are prepared, often, to do so. Medical librarians have been demonstrating our value in scientific terms and in business terms that our decision-makers understand. We welcome the opportunity to tell your readers more about the work that we do.

Futher reading:

  1. Marshall JG, Sollenberger J, Easterby-Gannett S, Morgan LK, Klem ML, Cavanaugh SK, Oliver KB, Thompson CA, Romanosky N, Hunter S. The value of library and information services in patient care: Results of a multi-site study. J Med Libr Assoc. 2013 Jan; 101(1):39-46.
  2. HLWIKI International. Point of care tools in medicine. http://hlwiki.slais.ubc.ca/index.php/Point-of-care_tools_in_medicine
  3. Giustini D. A comprehensive description: what health librarians do…HLA News. December 2012. & What Health Librarians Do. The Public Health Informationist. June 2013.

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