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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Medical informationists can make significant contributions to the intersection of medicine and information and library science. Based on input from approximately 50 medical informationists, a checklist of needed knowledge/skills was compiled. The curricula of 19 schools of information and library science (ILS) were then evaluated, in terms of their coverage of the required knowledge/skills. Course offerings on topics related to technology and information content were abundant, while coverage of topics related to users/people, communication and interpersonal skills, and intellectual outlook/personal attributes was spotty. Based on this analysis, the potential of ILS schools to educate medical informationists is discussed.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Because the information world of medical professionals is complex and ever-expanding, a new type of information professional - the medical informationist - is needed (Davidoff & Florance, 2000; Oliver & Roderer, 2006). Medical informationists can make significant contributions to the rapidly-evolving developments in the intersection between the expanding information universe and the expanding universe of health care professionals and researchers (Shipman et al., 2002).

While there has been some progress in increasing the informatics skills of physicians (e.g., Hersh, 2006; Hersh & Williamson, 2007; McGowan et al., 2007), the primary approach for educating informationists has focused on training librarians to become informationists (Detlefsen, 2002; Whitmore, Grefsheim, & Rankin, 2008). With grant support from the Institute for Museum & Library Services, a project team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University have, instead, focused on a dual approach: supporting medical students as they “step out” of their medical school program to complete a master's degree in information or library science.

To gain an understanding of the information-related competencies needed by medical informationists, we've interviewed about 50 physicians with information-focused careers and/or training in information science. From these interviews we compiled a set of core knowledge and skills needed by medical informationists to be able to successfully fill this role. They include technical skills and knowledge, knowledge and skills related to information content, knowledge of user behaviors and skills in interpersonal communication, among others. The next question is whether schools of information and library science have the capability to provide education in these needed areas.

Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

To address this question, we analyzed the curricula of 19 ILS schools in the U.S., identified for their strengths in the health sciences. Each school is highly ranked for its strength in health/medical librarianship by either the Medical Library Association or U.S. News & World Report, and it includes at least two courses related to the health sciences in its curriculum. The schools included in the study are:

  • Catholic University of America, School of Library and Information Science

  • Dominican University, Graduate School of Library & Information Science

  • Drexel University, College of Information Science and Technology

  • Florida State University, College of Information

  • Long Island University, Palmer School of Library & Information Science

  • Pratt Institute, School of Information & Library Science

  • Texas Woman's University, School of Library & Information Studies

  • University of Arizona, School of Information Resources & Library Science

  • University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science

  • University of Iowa, School of Library and Information Science

  • University of Kentucky, School of Library and Information Science

  • University of Michigan, School of Information

  • University of Missouri, School of Information Science & Learning Technologies

  • University of North Carolina, School of Information and Library Science

  • University of North Texas, School of Library and Information Sciences

  • University of Oklahoma, School of Library and Information Studies

  • University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences

  • University of South Florida, School of Library and Information Science

  • Wayne State University, Library and Information Science Program

The brief course descriptions of all courses from each school were examined, as well as any syllabi available over the Web. Any course that responded wholly or partially to one of the needed skills or knowledge areas was noted. These results from individual schools were then aggregated to provide an overview of the capabilities of ILS schools.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The results are summarized in Table 1. From the 19 schools analyzed, 346 full courses were identified that respond to current medical informationists' requirements for the education of the next generation of informationists, plus many other courses that partially respond to those requirements.

Education related to technology was fairly well covered, though there are few or no courses in health/medical records, interoperability, and innovation. The topics most frequently covered are: “Information systems context/issues,” “Technical skills/computing skills,” “Information systems analysis & design,” “Database skills,” and “Networking, internet protocols, network design.” A number of the 19 schools studied also offer courses specific to “Health care context/issues related to technology.”

Table 1. Number of schools offering courses in each area, and number of courses offered
  Number of courses
TOPICNumber of schoolsFull coursesPartial courses
Technologies
Technical skills/computing skills173215
Health care context/issues related to technology131410
Information systems context/issues184625
Text mining, natural language processing556
Database skills14215
Health/medical records   
Programming, scripting7127
Security, privacy, HIPAA592
Decision support systems, Bayesian networks, neural371
networks, machine learning, AI   
Information systems analysis & design152916
Interoperability, standards, & data exchange1 1
Networking, internet protocols, network design13196
Creative real world uses of technology, innovating,3 7
creativity   
Statistics, quantitative skills8310
Content
General library reference skills16206
Medical reference skills14157
Expert information/literature searching182113
Indexing, classification, organization of information192950
Evidence-based medicine (EBM)2 3
Information synthesis2 2
Literature analysis & evaluation5 6
Taxonomies and vocabularies1149
Medical coding systems (e.g., SnoMed)   
Information delivery634
People
Socio-technical design, user-centered design22 
Usability and user interface design9147
User perspective, user behaviors16219
Communication & interpersonal skills
Teamwork and interpersonal skills414
Leadership719
Project management653
Communication skills514
Teaching skills668
Intellectual outlook/personal attributes
Commitment to helping others1 1
Creativity; Interdisciplinary outlook   
Intellectual curiosity, intelligence   
Broad perspective   
Personal ethics and virtues, integrity1397
Pioneering spirit   

Every topic related to content is at least partially covered, with the single exception of education about “Medical coding systems,” such as SnoMed. Courses related to “Indexing, classification, and organization of information” are the most prevalent, followed by courses on “Expert information/literature searching,” “General library reference skills,” and “Medical reference skills.” Several topics in this area receive coverage only in parts of courses: “Evidence-based medicine,” “Information synthesis,” and “Literature analysis & evaluation.”

Education related to system users and people needing medical information is fairly well covered, though only two courses were identified that are described as covering “Socio-technical design, user-centered design.” It is likely that some of the courses covering “Information systems analysis & design” do focus on users, but this philosophical/methodological stance is not evident in the course descriptions. Almost all the schools offer at least one full course related to “User perspective, user behaviors.” Communication and interpersonal skills are being taught in about one-third of the ILS schools studied. Nevertheless, the offerings in this area are not as rich (i.e., not as many courses being offered in not as many schools) as in the topic areas already discussed. Some schools offer full courses in “Project management” and in “Teaching skills.” However, the other communication and interpersonal skills needed by medical informationists are taught only as parts of courses.

We did not expect to find many courses explicitly addressing the intellectual outlook and personal attributes identified by medical informationists as critical success factors, since these types of attributes are not often explicitly taught at the graduate level. The only one of these attributes explicitly addressed in multiple schools' ILS curricula is “Personal ethics and virtues, integrity.” In addition, one school has a course that includes a discussion of “Commitment to helping others.”

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

There are numerous limitations associated with an analysis of curricula, based on course descriptions. The descriptions may be out of date (i.e., some courses will have shifted their content, others are new and are not yet included in the listings, others are old and no longer offered). Some schools provide only very short descriptions, so the course may cover content that was missed in our analysis. Nevertheless, these data provide us with a starting point for understanding the potential for schools of information and library science to play an important role in the education of medical informationists - a role that is critical for the success of the health professions in the future. The current analysis of 19 schools' curricula provides us with an overview of the current strengths and weaknesses of ILS curricula, related to educating medical informationists. It also highlights areas in which curricula could be further developed. Of particular interest for the education of medical informationists would be courses discussing health/medical records, medical coding systems, information synthesis, and literature analysis and evaluation.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  • Davidoff F., Florance V.. (2000). The informationist: A new health profession? Annals of Internal Medicine, 132 (12), 996998.
  • Detlefsen E. G.. (2002). The education of informationists, from the perspective of a library and information sciences educator. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 90 (1), 5967.
  • Hersh W. (2006). Who are the informaticians? What we know and should know. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 13, 166170.
  • Hersh W., Williamson J. (2007). Educating 10,000 informaticians by 2010: The AMIA 10 × 10 program. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 76 (5–6), 377382.
  • McGowan J. J., Passiment M., Hoffman H. M.. (2007). Educating medical students as competent users of health information technologies: The MSOP data. Med Info, 12 (Pt 2), 14141418.
  • Oliver K. B., Roderer N. K.. (2006). Working towards the informationist. Health Informatics Journal, 12 (1), 4148.
  • Shipman J. P., Cunningham D. J., Holst R., Watson L. A.. (2002). The informationist conference: Report. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 90 (4), 458464.
  • Whitmore, S. C., Grefsheim, S. F., & Rankin, J. A. (2008). Informationist programme in support of biomedical research: A programme description and preliminary findings of an evaluation. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 25 (20), 135141.