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Managing information overload

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To the Editor: Gee’s introduction to a recent issue of the Journal discussed the impact that the overwhelming growth of health information has on doctors.1 While it is true that doctors are an important mainstay of advice to patients, health librarians are an important resource to doctors. Health librarians are trained to acquire, organise and disseminate credible information resources which enable doctors to find the best evidence to support clinical decision making.2

Perhaps the largest exercise to date on the impact of health libraries has been the 2013 Value of library and information services in patient care study in the United States.3 The study encompassed 56 libraries serving 118 hospitals with a survey of physicians, residents and nurses involved in either patient care or clinical research. There were 16 122 respondents including 5379 physicians, 2123 residents and 6788 nurses. About three-quarters of these respondents reported that they had definitely or probably handled some aspect of patient care differently because of information obtained from libraries. The study found that using health libraries resulted in clinical staff changing the advice given to patients (48%), changing diagnosis (25%) and changing choice of drugs (33%), as well as avoiding or reducing the risk of patients misunderstanding…