Medical librarians use their expertise in health technology to improve physician satisfaction

The modern medical librarian takes on a role that begins with curating digital solutions but extends to empowering clinicians, improving clinical decision making, and even advocating for technological advancements and security. But they cannot fulfill their mandate without the support of their organizations, both financial and administrative.

The current and future role of medical librarians and how their expertise intersects with health technology was addressed by HIMSS in a Spotlight series paper entitled Enhancing Clinical Experience: Helping Medical Librarians Support Better Decision Making and Patient Care “.

The importance of medical librarians in clinical care

When the role of medical librarians came to prominence almost 100 years ago, these professionals pushed book carts behind doctors on rounds, offering a “mobile library” so that clinicians could look things up “in real time” while reviewing patient charts and treatments.

Although the shift over the past decade to digital content has continued to change the traditional role of medical librarians, they remain a crucial resource with the power to improve clinician satisfaction and combat clinician burnout. With the advent of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), medical librarians have new tools and capabilities to help improve clinical decision making at the point of care.

But as noted in a recent article in Healthcare IT News, a significant number of healthcare organizations 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 deliver – and too often they also struggle with interoperability issues that hinder organizations’ ability to access or share data across different digital solutions. These issues also affect the work of medical librarians. Without the proper foundation, both in terms of infrastructure and high-quality data, medical librarians will face significant challenges while providing clinical decision support (CDS) to clinicians.

In addition, scaling digital transformation efforts requires direct business support from information technology (IT) departments, not only to ensure tight data governance on systems, but also to manage the associated cybersecurity risk.

Liaison between medical librarians and clinicians

Clinicians have become much more dependent 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 spend on the patient in front of them—either the research publication or resident training.

It is clear that frontline clinicians need some relief from the increased workload. Strong CDS tools are one way healthcare organizations can provide such relief. Medical librarians are uniquely qualified to vet and appropriately implement 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 to support clinicians. Budget constraints can significantly affect the technology tools that librarians can use, as well as staffing.

Many medical librarians also cite cybersecurity risks as an issue they face. These risks have increased significantly as resource databases and other tools move to cloud-based and web-based options. There is a growing need for the medical library to coordinate with IT departments to more tightly lock down access to these resources—and this can create challenges for stakeholders, such as clinicians, who need to access this information.

To learn more about how medical librarians are improving the clinician experience, download the full HIMSS Spotlight Series document.

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