Guest post by Katherine Majewski, NLM Librarian.
How are librarians applying informatics?
This is the question we want to answer in re-envisioning the NLM Biomedical Informatics training program. The survey-style course, most recently hosted by Augusta University in Georgia, provided a sampling of the vast realms of informatics research and application in the health sciences. We want to build on the success of that course by targeting the specific skills and knowledge that librarians can use right now to tackle real-world challenges.
For example, Barbara Platts and her team provide clinical information services for Munson Healthcare in Traverse City, Michigan. Over the last several years, Barbara’s role at Munson has expanded into electronic health records (EHR). She now contributes to the policy and management of clinical information flow both within and outside the EHR system. As part of that effort, Barbara enhances the functionality of Munson’s EHR; increases the usable clinical content provided across multiple platforms; develops efficient knowledge management structures for hospital communities of practice; and trains hospital employees to use critical appraisal skills to find the best information services available.
How can NLM support this important work and help other librarians follow Barbara’s lead in using information tools to improve patient care?
In trying to answer that question, we’ve been exploring the connections between clinical librarians, informatics, and patient care to better understand NLM’s role. This past year we offered a webinar series entitled “Clinical Information, Librarians, and the NLM: From Health Data Standards to Better Health,” which focused on the roles and products of the National Library of Medicine related to applied clinical informatics, particularly within electronic health records systems and clinical research. We devoted one of the six sessions in the series to discussing emerging roles and training needs for aspiring informatics librarians. In conjunction with the series, we solicited interviews, visited clinical sites, and polled webinar participants to learn about the specific skills and knowledge clinical librarians are using now or will need in the future.
Along the way we heard from many librarians like Barbara who are part of the clinical information flow, though not always integrated into clinical systems as much as they would like.
We learned that librarians are:
- working with clinical teams to improve patient care and safety by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of information delivery;
- connecting systems to systems, bridging the divide between clinicians and information technology staff;
- crafting information policies and practices within and between health institutions to reduce waste and redundancy and improve patient care;
- supporting research by:
- framing research questions,
- informing research design methods, and
- managing research data;
- conducting research in text mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning;
- selecting and licensing content, including patient education content; and
- educating users.
How can NLM support these current and future roles for librarians?
Underlying any work related to health information must be a strong facility with the information services NLM provides. This should not be understated or undervalued: Librarians make significant contributions to health using their knowledge of information sources and retrieval techniques, and NLM resources are at the center.
But those librarians who managing data or making system-level connections between patients and health information need additional skills and knowledge from NLM. These fall into two general areas:
- The ability to manage and direct access to NLM systems and data (e.g., through APIs), and
- An understanding of the terminologies that can be used to connect systems.
What is the NLM plan for informatics training for librarians and other information professionals?
To support patient care, we are:
- Expanding our training on standard terminologies and coding systems. See, for example, our video introductions to the UMLS, RxNorm, and Value Set Authority Center.
- Increasing our training on NLM APIs. For example, see our on-demand course Getting the Right Information to Patients Using MedlinePlus Connect, where you can learn how to link EHRs and apps to consumer-level health information. As we refine other APIs, we will build on our useful and entertaining Insider’s Guide to Accessing NLM Data, where you can currently learn how to access and use PubMed data.
To support research, we will:
- continue our highly successful bioinformatics for librarians training program, where even the novice user can learn the foundations of genetics and how to use the most popular NCBI molecular biology databases and tools;
- bolster data services at libraries through our research data management class, Biomedical and Health Research Data Management for Librarians (soon to be supplemented by a catalog of data science training resources); and
- reinforce standardized research methods through training on the NIH Common Data Elements Repository.
What about other realms of informatics?
We’re not done yet. Understanding additional areas where librarianship, informatics, and NLM intersect will require more communication with you. Look for opportunities to engage with us through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine and on our page Training on Biomedical Informatics, Data Science, and Data Management.
Katherine Majewski is a trainer, instructional designer, and technical writer for NLM products. Kate received her master’s degree in library and information science from the State University of New York at Buffalo and has worked in libraries since 1989.