Blog Post #5: Health Information
In LIS 745, Searching Electronic Databases, we have been doing a lot of searching of medical databases. The professor discussed a survey that had been done in public libraries in the south suburbs of Chicago that showed half (!) of the questions taken at the reference desk to be related to health information. I was shocked to hear that figure, but then I thought more about it...the state of our country's health care system, the confusion and anxiety that follows illness, the tense moment when you finally get to talk to the doctor or nurse about what is going on in your body and the response that often doesn't seem like enough information.
There is an overwhelming amount of health information out there on the Web. Dr. Saperstein, the devilish doctor, from Rosemary's Baby would be hard pressed to keep Rosemary from looking up information on womenshealth.gov. Doctors and nurses now expect patients to be packed with info they found online and in other sources. However, the health information that can be found online is not tailored for your needs or situation and professionals should always be consulted before adjusting your treatment plan or health regime.
I asked a classmate who works at a patient health information library about finding information on colon cancer. In that conversation I saw what a special job helping patrons with health information is, and why he is a great person for it. He calmly asked about what stage of colon cancer I was interested in finding out information about, and since I didn't know, he evenly asked me for further information. Then he assessed my question, and suggested I first look at sites sponsored by the American Cancer Society www.cancer.org and The National Institute of Health www.cancer.gov. He suggested I take a look at those sites first, and then gave me his contact information, in case I had anymore questions and wanted to speak with him as I found out more information. He explained that he felt it is often important not to overwhelm the patron with too much information in the initial interview. I really saw him open up the door for more questions. This made me think about the importance of establishing a relationship between the librarian and patron where the patron has the opportunity to ask more questions, but also where the librarian is able to gently push the patron to the point of learning and discovering information on his/her own, which is a rich part of the library experience.
Here are a few useful sites for health information:
Consumer and Patient Health Information Section of the Medical Library Association
Information from the National Institute of Health
Patientcentric version of Medline, a free database from the National Library of Medicine
Information from the Center for Disease Control
Information from the Mayo Clinic