Health Sciences Libraries Vital to Patient Care

Sep. 24, 2013
URMC Librarian Publishes JAMA Viewpoints Article

It’s an honor few librarians receive.

Following the recent publication of a study she co-authored, Julia F. Sollenberger, M.L.S., associate vice president and director of URMC Medical Center Libraries and Technologies, now has a scholarly essay appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  In the JAMA Viewpoint article, entitled The Evolving Role and Value of Libraries and Librarians in Health Care, Sollenberger and Robert G. Holloway, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the URMC Department of Neurology, demonstrate the growing importance of health science libraries and librarians in patient care.  They make a case for inserting librarians into patient care teams.

“Rather than being seen as the place where books and journals are, we have a new vision for what libraries are and what they can do.  We are collaborators and facilitators in patient care,” says Sollenberger.

 Sollenberger largely bases her reasoning on a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the Medical Library Association.  Funded by the National Library of Medicine, the study surveyed more than 16,000 physicians, residents and nurses from 116 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.  It found the majority of them believe library and information sources positively influence their clinical decisions and ability to provide instructions to patients.  Sollenberger also refers to another study indicating a librarian’s presence at morning report correlates to shorter hospital stays and lower costs.

“With ongoing changes in health care as a result of information technology…(health sciences libraries are) helping to make patient care both efficient and effective,” Sollenberger writes in JAMA.

“There is an unprecedented amount of information accessible to clinicians, but the information is only as good as our ability to sift through it all and interpret it.  Librarians have search expertise and an awareness of available materials that physicians – and ultimately, patients – can truly benefit from,” says Holloway.

At Strong Memorial Hospital, librarians are participating in interdisciplinary rounds in Pediatrics and are working closely with attending physicians and residents in Neurology.  They assist with information retrieval, particularly in difficult cases.  These efforts are being evaluated to further demonstrate that librarians, when directly involved in patient care teams, make a real difference in quality of care and patient outcomes.

“The shift to include librarians in care teams will require careful attention to workflow design and to organizational and social issues,” Sollenberger cautions in her JAMA article.