We’re halfway through the strategic planning process at NLM, with the second of four panels convening last week to explore the future of the public’s health.
Like the other topical panels, invited experts from around the US joined us to share their unique and important perspectives. I am grateful for the opportunity to glimpse the visions of these great leaders, because each meeting gives me new insights and inspires new directions, new possibilities, for the National Library of Medicine.
The topic of public health covered by the panel includes personal health management, clinical care services, and community and public health. We did not separate these in the discussion because people in health or illness pass through each of these care environments as they traverse the trajectory from health to illness and back again.
As our experts shared their visions of what might happen in or across their various sectors over the next 10 years, the message was strong: The future of health lies in the hands of the people who will experience those health journeys. The public’s health, whether experienced in a public health clinic, a hospital bed, or a patient’s home, is going to be increasingly driven by the vision, skill, preferences, and choices of the person, not the professional!
It became immediately clear to me that the library designed to support the intensive care unit in 1995 will be ill-equipped to support a community-situated, patient-centric health care environment in the next decade.
The library that supports acute care rests on several premises:
- Biological knowledge dominates.
- Point-of-care decision making is the rule.
- Records became archives of the care experience.
The future of health lies in the hands of the people who will experience those health journeys.
With a person-driven model, the information needed for care is simultaneously more broad—encompassing social, behavioral, and environmental factors—and more precise—focused on individuals, not the statistical average. We must also reconsider how that information is delivered, so it aligns with the individual’s values regarding heath and health care and is relevant to his or her life experiences and understanding of illness.
So what needs to happen to NLM to make it a library that accelerates personal health, person-centered care, and public health?
We need to collect new kinds of information, such as studies that help us characterize health and illness in terms of the patient. We need to build new filters and integrate special search terms so the process of locating that information aligns with how people experience and understand their own health issues. Finally, we must present that material in a way that is both actionable and comprehensible by the layperson, which might call for translation services or plain language interpretations.
As we design NLM’s future, please let us know what you know. How will care practices and knowledge development in your domain change over the next five years? And how can NLM help you meet those challenges?