Many hospitals around the country question the value of keeping a medical library. Cedars-Sinai doesn’t. Here’s why.
Over the last decade, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Library has evolved into a powerful resource for improving patient outcomes and bolstering support for research. With information technology replacing paper and changing the way we read books and journals, how do medical libraries go beyond the basics of counting transactions to measure value?
The profound changes occurring in the healthcare industry and technology have led many hospital libraries to redefine value as traditional roles and services evolve. In 2010, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Library participated in the Library Value Study, a nationwide survey of more than 56 libraries serving 118 hospitals. The results showed that the hospital library had a positive impact in a number of key areas, including advice to patients, diagnosis, and drug choice. An overwhelming number of the survey’s respondents (95 percent) reported that hospital libraries provided information that resulted in better-informed clinical decisions. Additionally, a majority of the respondents reported that utilizing reference materials in the library allowed them to avoid unfavorable events such as adverse drug reactions and medical errors.
Today’s physicians are expected to practice healthcare based on the best evidence and current research. To do so, they must utilize support tools that enhance their clinical decisions for their patients’ benefit (see cover story). The hospital library is essential in making those tools available to healthcare providers and supplying the training needed to use them.
The library also plays a role in measuring the impact research has on medicine. In 2013, Cedars-Sinai received more than $27 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for grant-funded research projects. The results were communicated to physicians, research scientists, and other medical professionals through published journal articles. That same year, Cedars-Sinai authors published more than 1,000 articles in peer-reviewed journals — an important figure since the number of such articles is a key indicator of success for any academic institution. Articles based on studies funded by the NIH are also made available in digital form through PubMed Central, a free, full-text, open-access repository.
Publication, whether in print or online, maximizes the exposure of one’s research. Researchers are increasingly required to demonstrate the impact of their work through citation metrics (also known as bibliometric data) such as the Hirsch Index (h-index). The h-index takes into account both the output of an author and the impact of his or her writing. Higher h-index numbers denote greater impact. The goal is to increase research exposure, which fuels accelerated medical research and discovery, boosted scholarly output, and — potentially — increased funding from the NIH. The library supports this process by highlighting, teaching, and tracking these metrics. The ability to comprehend the correlation between grants and the number of published journal articles is crucial to the long-term success of hospital libraries.
As technology continues to produce better healthcare outcomes, hospital libraries can play a key role in these advancements through the management and delivery of medical information that improves hospital efficiency, increases author output, expands grant funding, generates clinical knowledge, and enhances patient care.
Janet Hobbs-Moore, MLS, MBA, has been manager of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Library since 2003. A senior member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals through the Medical Library Association, she serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the Medical Library Association and is a member of the executive board of the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium.