The present and future role of medical librarians and how their expertise intersects with healthcare technology was examined by HIMSS in a Spotlight Series paper titled, “Enhancing the Clinician Experience: Helping Medical Librarians Support Better Decision-making and Patient Care.”
Importance of medical librarians in clinical care
When the role of medical librarians first came to prominence nearly 100 years ago, these professionals would push carts of books behind physicians during rounds, offering a “mobile library” so clinicians could look things up “in real time” while reviewing patient charts and treatments.
While the last decade’s shift to digital content has continued to change the medical librarians’ traditional role, they remain a crucial resource with the power to improve clinician satisfaction and combat clinician burnout. With emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) coming into their own, medical librarians have new tools and opportunities to help enhance clinical decision-making at the point of care.
But as noted in a recent Healthcare IT News article, a significant number of healthcare organizations that are currently investing in digital health projects find themselves “stuck in the planning and pre-implementation phases” of their digital transformation efforts. They lack the necessary infrastructure to support the projects they seek to implement – and, far too often, they are also struggling with interoperability issues, which interfere with organizations’ ability to access or share data across different digital solutions. These issues impact medical librarians’ work as well. Without the right foundation in place, in terms of both infrastructure and high-quality data, medical librarians will face significant challenges as they provide clinical decision support (CDS) to clinicians.
In addition, scaling digital transformation efforts requires direct business support from Information Technology (IT) departments, not only to provide strict data governance over systems but also to manage the associated cybersecurity risk.
Relationships between medical librarians and clinicians
Clinicians have become much more reliant on the medical librarian in many cases. If they have to spend more than a few minutes searching for data or documentation, that’s less time they have to devote to the patient in front of them – or to the research publication or to resident training.
It’s clear that clinicians on the front lines need some relief from increased workloads. Strong CDS tools are one way that healthcare organizations can provide such relief. Medical librarians are uniquely qualified to appropriately vet and deploy useful and user-friendly CDS solutions.
The impact of budget cuts on medical librarians in the healthcare industry
Budget cuts are the biggest challenge medical librarians report to their mission of supporting clinicians. Budget restrictions can significantly impact the technology tools librarians can use, as well as staffing.
Many medical librarians also mention cybersecurity risks as an issue they face. These risks have greatly increased as resource databases and other tools move into cloud-based and Web-based options. There is increased need for the medical library to align with IT departments to lock down access to these resources more tightly – and that can create challenges for stakeholders, like clinicians, who need to get to that information.
To learn more about the how medical librarians enhance the clinician experience, download the full HIMSS Spotlight Series paper.