The Information Needs of Clinicians: a Study of the Doctors Nova Scotia Clinical Library

Patricia J. Lee

Abstract


Background: The Clinical Library (CL) is a virtual library of books, journals, drug information, and patient information. It has no hard copy books or journals to lend. Objectives: On the 10-year anniversary of the CL, feedback from information skills training indicated a need for a user assessment survey to ensure that the CL continues to meet the medical information needs of the modern clinician. The study was conducted to assess the level of electronic information use, the geographical distribution of users, and the frequency of use by various clinical practitioners. The study also contained a survey of health librarians in the United Kingdom to assess whether our information strategies are in line with international practices and needs. Methods: External consultants were hired to conduct interviews and a survey among the membership and to perform an environmental scan of Canadian and U.S. services. A series of interviews was conducted by the health librarian at health libraries in the U.K. Results: Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said they access information to help inform patient diagnosis or treatment at least every 2–3 days, 40% of respondents regularly use web-based medical information services, and 46% of respondents used the CL as part or all of their electronic search strategy. The use of the CL varied widely depending on the location of respondents and their access to a health library. Respondents in rural areas and those unaffiliated with hospital libraries were more likely to use the virtual CL. Family practitioners showed the most familiarity with the CL offerings and reported the highest use of the CL (66.7% of respondents). A significant minority of respondents found the CL difficult to navigate. The U.K. arm of the study showed that services offered there were similar to those offered by the CL. Conclusions: Based on the findings, the CL remains a vital service for members. The CL should maintain its services for members and make the user interface easier to use. A majority of clinicians are seeking evidence to support decisions about patient care. The use of web-based resources, including journals and textbooks, is growing. The CL is meeting the needs of a significant portion of respondents, mainly family physicians. The U.K. study found that librarians there offer similar services to those offered by the CL and that, based on their use, U.K. librarians expect to be offering these services for some time to come. The CL must look for synergies and duplication with affiliated libraries and find ways to collaborate and promote services.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5596/c13-058

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