HealthMay 06, 2022

Avoiding health misinformation: Medical librarians can offer data and insights

The amount of health misinformation has been on the rise, even before the Covid-19 pandemic. But health misinformation isn’t only a concern for patients. Clinicians and healthcare professionals also need reminders to stay vigilant and sometimes need assistance identifying outdated evidence and checking their sources.

For the Medical Library Association (MLA), partnering with providers and other healthcare professionals to encourage critical evaluation of medical evidence goes hand-in-hand with its members’ daily work promoting use of reliable research and connecting clinicians to trusted informational resources and research tools, explains Tomi Gunn, Senior Manager of Community Engagement.

A number of MLA members suggested avoiding health misinformation as a potential theme for the 2021 National Medical Librarians Month (NMLM), Gunn reports, and it continues to be a topic of interest for the association as it prepares for its 2022 annual meeting and exhibition.

“The hopes for this or any NMLM campaign are to encourage and assist health sciences information professionals in marketing their value and expertise within their own institutions and communities,” she explains. “Themes and materials are created for them to bring awareness of their skills and library’s resources.”

MLA provides infographics and posters for its membership to share, touting the value of health sciences library services, and how librarians can have a verifiable impact on care outcomes when clinicians partner with them in decision-making. The primary campaign poster is a roadmap reminding healthcare professionals to consider the questions they need to ask before trusting a source, such as: Is this journal credible? Is my research study reproducible? What do I do if a source I cited was retracted?

Librarian services influence decision-making

MLA’s “Avoid Health Misinformation” campaign focuses largely on results of studies and surveys on the impact librarians have had on clinical decision-making.

One study of professionals at 118 hospitals found that:

  • 95% said they made better informed clinical decision with the help of a librarian
  • 45% reported librarian services ensured interventions were based on best practices or current evidence
  • 39% felt librarian services had a positive impact on the quality of care

Additional research showed that 88% of survey respondents reported changing a treatment based on new informational skills taught by a librarian.

What is the role of a medical librarian?

According to MLA’s career center, medical librarians – also known as clinical resource managers or health sciences librarians or myriad other related titles – contribute essential services to the healthcare team, including:

  • Answering requests for rush information during emergencies
  • Assisting with research or literature review for studies or journal articles
  • Managing electronic resources, integrated decision support tools, and reference materials
  • Connecting patients to educational health information in their native language
  • Serving as medical informatics specialists and advisors in a variety of capacities
  • Functioning as licensing and copyright experts
  • Advocating for patient safety

With quality information services, MLA asserts that health systems can reduce hospital costs and lengths of stay while improving overall outcomes.

Learn more about how evidence-based clinical decision support can help health systems and hospitals connect to trusted research and best practices.

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