16 December 2011

Holiday Hooplah: Giving the eGift (or iGift) of healthcare apps

It seems Christmas has crept up on me again this year, and just freshly back from vacation in Australia most people assume I'm not quite in the Christmas mode because we were spending sunny days at the beach instead of putting on Parkas.  They would be wrong.  We did however enjoy some strange Australian summer rainstorms, non-stop. Nevertheless, our first stop back in Canada included the sight of snow on the mountains and Christmas music blaring.  That's the kind of Christmas Canadians are used to and yet, like many, to undertake any Christmas shopping .

2011 marks for me a noticeably new type of Christmas season than times past with the explosion of more-affordable technology like smart phones and a whole host of tablets (though perhaps I've just been sleeping through the last few seasons?).   Some may even think it prudent to purchase apps for a sort of e-stocking stuffer or gift.  For those working in Healthcare Apple has made it just that much easier for you with its "Apps for Healthcare Professionals" with 49 apps for the iPhone and 52 for the iPad. These include applications classified as: reference, point of care, educational, imaging, EMR & patient monitoring, and personal care (more like Consumer Health)  Now that's practical, forward thinking and maybe even something your Healthcare-working recipient didn't even know about!

Want to browse the apps?  Click below:

iPhone: itunes.com/healthcareprofessionalsiphoneapps
iPad: itunes.com/healthcareprofessionalsipadapps

Oh yes, and Happy Holidays to all whatever that holiday may be, even it's just a weekend off :)

16 November 2011

Canadian Healthcare Network: A great resource for Everyone in Healthcare (and apparently free!)

In my Library there's lots to do and not enough time, something I'm sure 99% of those working in healthcare can relate to (yes Librarians have LOTS to do! :) )  It happens as a result that my mail call is low on my list of priorities despite the fact that I still receive a select few print journal subscriptions.  Of course these subscriptions seem to arrive in droves: my mailbox on some days collects bills (days I could do without) and on other days seems to have raided every publishing house in North America.  With my subscriptions I seem to also receive some orphaned journals but since our print collection is slim enough I take them and put them out as random mishmash on the coffee table in the Library. 

That is until last week's OHA (Ontario Hospitals Association) conference where a few of our HR people queried if we had the publication, Canadian Healthcare Manager.  Not being in my Library at the time but recalling it's frequent presence in my mailbox I said 'Oh yes!, it's one of our print journals' which was met with approval and interest.  Then shame on me, I came back to my Library only to find no record of it in my holdings...I was preparing myself for the walk of Librarian shame over to HR to explain I don't have it AND I don't seem to know my own Library.

Thankfully a colleague of mine, Lorraine Rohm in HR, had slipped me a page of the most recent issue with an advert for the Canadian Healthcare Network: she wanted to know what it was about, so I checked into it before I made the trek over.  To my pleasant surprise I saw: Canadian Healthcare Network: "The online home of The Medical Post, Pharmacy Practice, Drugstore Canada and Canadian Healthcare Manager", Sounds promising right? Well it was! This site has a wealth of information, articles, blogs etc. for Physicians, Nurses, Pharmacists and Healthcare Managers and as a bonus you receive a print copy of the publication of your field. Mystery solved and no need to make the shame-ridden trek to HR! I was suddenly justified in my conference confidence that I had been receiving a copy only now I know it has been one of those orphaned few. Though I now will receive my own legitimate copy I still prefer to think of these rogue publications as orphaned versus stolen (which they very well may be)  but of course what goes in my mailbox stays in my mailbox right? Until I get around to it at least :)

31 October 2011

Johns Hopkins’ Tragedy: Could Librarians Have Prevented a Death?

In Light of Patient Safety Week take a look at this article (although 10 years ago the point remains very relevant!)

Johns Hopkins’ Tragedy: Could Librarians Have Prevented a Death?

21 October 2011

Can't break the Googling? Try iMedisearch instead!

Oh you've heard it before, many, many times:  Google is not for patient care (or at least every Medical Librarian out there hopes you've heard it and you've listened).  Enter the reality: You're comfortable using it, it's fast and easy. I too love Google but I sure wouldn't want anyone I knew being treated by it: I know how the algorithms work and that it's not tailored to quality health information.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to a Custom Google Search created by Hong Kao, BScPhm, BCPS of Trillium Healthcare in Mississauga Ontario called iMedisearch.  This tools allows the user to search by their professions (Physician, Nurse, Allied Health or even simply as a member of the General Public) and only searches quality health information websites vetted by Mr. Kao himself.  When I heard of this I was ecstatic: Here's a free tool, based off the ever-popular Google search technology, HON certified (Health information on the Net) that searches over 40,000 reliable health related websites and all because of one man's dedication and hard work!  I was excited to use it as an example of  free quality information on the web on the TAAAC training in Ethiopia (which by the way is an amazing country with even more amazing people!) and have been waiting to get back home to promote it here.

Now I'm just holding out for an app and a widget so I can embed them into our hospital site and promote it on handhelds and tablets!  Perhaps I'm putting too much pressure on a man who does this on the side of being a full-time Pharmacist, but isn't it all about what I want and need :)?  Of course not...in true Librarian fashion, it's all about what you guys want and need so I hope this helps!

Check it out at: www.imedisearch.com

26 September 2011

To Addis and Back: The TAAAC Library Science Program Partnership

Alright! So it's been extremely busy  the past few weeks, and I have a list of post topics slowly piling up but I'm going to try and squeeze this one in before I disappear for another few weeks.

I am involved with a group called TAAAC (Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration), a partnership between the University of Toronto and Addis Ababa University to "build and strengthen capacity and sustainability in medical -specialties and other health and non-health professional programs" (TAAAC website).  Our Library Science Program team includes 3 Toronto-Based Medical Librarians and one Florida-based Librarian, who will be the lead for the World Health Organization's HINARI program training (WHO's HINARI). We will travel to Addis Ababa Ethiopia for the first half of October to offer training sessions in Evidence Based Practice, Medical Librarianship, Web Design , Ptolemy and HINARI training.  It is such a wonderful partnership that really offers all involved a two-way learning experience and encourages a collective expertise.  I can honestly say I have enhanced my own skills in these areas since preparing for this inaugural two-week session and therefore value the partnership all the more.

For more information on the Medical Library project, check out our site found under the Programs tab of the main TAAAC website (where you can also get more information on the other programs/teams involved as well!

If you want to help via a fiscal donation you can do so via the 'Donate' button on the top right of the page.

29 August 2011

"Dammit, I'm a Doctor not a Mathematician!"...Well I'm a Librarian, But I'm Still Not a Mathematician

 I recall my parents telling me over and over how math is important and I must learn to love it: well guess what, it is, but I don't. My go-to reply was always:  "There's a calculator for that!"  I can blame the teaching system, my gender (I always proposed that guys were inherently better at math than girls), or how I'm righ-brain-heavy.  Aside from my clearly misogynistic take on numbers and the physical evidence that I don’t walk disproportionately tilted to the right I'm still at the end of the day not a fan nor a star of math.  I thought being a Librarian, even a Medical Librarian, would keep me in the clear.  Enter the day I found out about NNT/NNH, Likelihood Ratios, Absolute Risk, and Confidence Intervals.  Even as I write I shiver.

Although I'm a self-confessed 'smart-cookie' (despite my calculation ineptitude) these concepts were difficult. Nevertheless I learned what they were for, and even how to properly calculate them. Hooray!  That's the end of my story right?  Wrong.  Just a few weeks later when I proudly slipped in ‘Numbers Needed to Treat (NNT)’ into a conversation with a physician (who seemed surprised I knew) it was swiftly followed by my blank stare and a "Boy it's warm in here" comment as I tried to recount its proper use.  Now, after many more moons have passed I can at least take solace in the fact that I know they exist, even if I can't recall much more.

Let's pretend then that there are more people like me including those people who simply don't have the time to draw out the calculations (see even when I write about math my right brain wants to 'draw'). Enter Alan Schwartz from the University of Illinois, Chicago who so wonderfully offers a Risk Reduction Calculator as well as the Stats Calculator offered by the University of Toronto's Centre for Evidence Based Medicine. Now it's as easy as plugging in your numbers and the calculator does the legwork for you!

Though I'm not saying that you shouldn't be able to do the calculations on your own, I would like to end on the old argument to my parents, the argument that I like to think was a precursor to the 'There's an app for that" argument of today's youths: that there really is "a calculator for that" (and yes there are even apps for that as well). :)


04 August 2011

Relearning How to Learn? Try These Study Skills Resources

Despite the workplace looking like a deserted island while everyone seems to be holidaying except yours truly I am being told via the newspaper and TV that not only is it Fall in the Mall but it's again that 'most wonderful time of the year' for our back to school stores.  Apparently August is a mere stepping stone to the annual launch of the "back to" mentality everyone both loves and dreads.  You may even be back to work and school at the same time, a situation very familiar to many health care professionals undertaking advanced degrees and CE.  That said it's an opportune moment to highlight some Study Skills tools a colleague of mine sent my way( thank you to Elaine Bernstein, Director of Library Services at NYGH in Toronto) .

University of Guelph's  A Guide For University Learning
University of Guelph's (Guelph, ON, Canada)  A Guide For University Learning:
This is an excellent and fun-to-navigate resource advising everything from how to properly take notes in lectures to test-taking strategies for exams.  There's also a 'Resources' section that has a time management guide, a mark calculator alongside videos and podcasts.  All in all it's a fantastic way to get back into the groove of getting through school whether it be University, College or Distance Ed.

Athabasca University's Learner Success Study Skills

Athabasca University's Learner Success Study Skills page:
Another wonderful site with lots of information and printouts from writing a term paper to multiple choice exams.  You can also find time management tools alongside advice on how to study when you have a family.  Athabasca also lists some external resources such as the University of Victoria's Learning Skill Program and Joe Landsberger's Study Guides and Strategies site which has an amazing amount of resources and in 37 languages!!

Joe Landsberger's Study Guides and Strategies

Getting back into the swing of studying doesn't have to be too stressful or daunting, even knowing these resources are out there mean there are others in the same boat as you! So take a browse around these resources to help lighten your load in the upcoming semester :)

18 July 2011

IntheNews: Patient Outcomes Directly Related to Keeping Updated in the Field, Partnering with Your Librarian's Expertise

As a Medical Librarian I am constantly trying to hit home the link between quality care and better patient outcomes to quality information and keeping up-to-date: it's the raison d'etre of any one in my field. While on my commute in this morning I saw an article in the paper that hit on precisely this point (see below for links) but ended the article with a call for re-certification of Doctor's throughout their careers.  Re-certification, however, isn't the only answer and shouldn't be:  there needs to be a complete cultural shift towards continued everyday updates, a culture of inquiry, education and continued information sourcing by clinical staff.

It may very well be that the new crop of Doctors have this view already well-ingrained as the article suggests, only time will tell, but with continued pressure on clinical staff's time and the ever-increasing amounts of  information being churned out the role of the Library and Library staff is more important than ever.  Talk to your Librarian about what resources you have at your fingertips, from any desktop and sometimes even your mobile devices.  While your there ask about how to set up RSS feeds or how they can help connect you to the right information at the right time.

Check out the article in one of Toronto's daily papers 24Hrs published on July 18th 2011, pg 16 titled "Newer Docs, Better Care?"  or the original article it highlights titled "Longer Lengths of Stay and Higher Risk of Mortality among Inpatients of Physicians with More Years in Practice" in the American Journal of Medicine or check out the PubMed citation

13 July 2011

More New Widgets

Check out the new widgets I've added to the left including:

MedlinePlus:  Consumer Health Info for your patients
Healthline's SmartSearch: A quick way to get more information on a given topic

NIH Research: See what's new at the National Institute of Health

Feel free to point me in the direction of any widgets you may know of and use!

04 July 2011

Evolutionary Biology: A Different Look at Modern Medicine

Check out this interview with Randolph Nesse on Evolutionary Biology. For more on this topic grab a copy of the book co-authored by Nesse and George C. Williams called "Why We Get Sick": It's a fascinating read for anyone but especially those in health professions!

27 June 2011

GoogleHealth Flatlines

Just an FYI if anyone is a Google Health user:  As of Jan 1 2012 the product will close up shop. Check out Google official blog post on this for more info!
Official Google Blog: An update on Google Health and Google PowerMeter: "In the coming months, we’re going to retire two products that didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped, but did serve as influential mode..."

24 June 2011

Help make a real difference to health research: Ontario Health Study

I've often seen posters for this on the subway and I've meant to check into it for months now but it has constantly been pushed aside for other things.  Then I saw this video and thought, "This is my business; this is what I am shouting over a loudspeaker everyday, Medicine based in research and quality information!"  How can I push this aside any longer and hold my head up as a Medical Librarian :).

So I want to take this opportunity to mend my ways and promote participation in my readers. I am fully aware of how easy it is to say "I'll do that later" but let's face it: will it ever actually be done?  So please try and take the time now to watch this video (below) , read about the study and then take the survey!

*Note that these are YouTube videos and may be blocked at your place of work but make sure to check them out at home!*

You never know who this could help, it may be one of your family members, it may even be you.

14 June 2011

From Road Maps to Body Maps

I've just come back to work from a wonderful holiday through western Canada where we relied heavily on our trusty maps to keep us on route (though sometimes not so trusty GPS) but on my first day back I've come across a different kind of map called "BodyMaps": Visualize Better Health by HealthLine.  Not only is this an excellent resource allowing you to look layer by layer of various body sections, it also allows you to zoom and rotate the image 360 degrees!  They are colourful, annotated, and include related information and videos meaning it's great for Docs and patients alike.

I think it's fairly self-explanatory why clinical staff would find this tool useful but  I'll touch on why it's excellent for patient care as well.  Having had three knee surgeries before I was in the profession I would have loved to see what exactly a 'Medial Meniscus' and an 'ACL' looked like, as well as the ability to explore the anatomy of my injuries with this tool.  It's often hard to remember that a patient doesn't know what a 'Meniscus' is just by you pointing at it and explaining it's like a c-shaped pad attached to the shin.  As someone outside of the trade at the time I had no real reference point of what that meant:  what's simple to you may be completely foreign to your patient.  Showing that patient quickly and easily interactive pictures of what it is and what's happening to theirs is what any patient would consider 'excellent care'.  You can then point them to the videos or other 'extra' tools offered on that page so they can continue to understand their injury or condition at home.

So check out BodyMaps, bookmark it and use it for all around ease and access!

25 May 2011

Let's crack this cliche!: What Librarians really do today

There's been a lot in the news lately (at least in my area) about Librarians, Libraries, their value and their purpose.   It's a constant frustration for Librarians in 2011 and one I've touched on in the past but am going to again take this opportunity to try and hit home the change in the Library world and the profession.

There are multiple issues but for the sake of being succinct let's focus on the big one:

 Librarians are dated, book-loving redundant people in a world of technology and 'Internet' resources

There are some major things already wrong with this statement so lets deal with the technicalities first.  Technology is a Librarian's main resource today; the Internet does not dole out free quality information, it merely acts as an tool to discover information.  In other words you can Google something and know it's there but try accessing the cream of the crop information without a Library: it'll cost a small fortune when you're done.  Google itself, although an amazing tool simply doesn't have the algorithms for cutting out all the bumf and getting to the good stuff: but that also was never its purpose.  It crawls the whole of the world wide web and returns a massive amount of results including, websites, businesses, videos, books, documents, blogs, online stores and the list goes on.  It is excellent at tying  keywords to what its algorithm deems relevant sites or sources but doesn't offer any sort of proper raking of quality.   What's the result?  Far too many people under the false impression that information, and health/treatment information at that, can be adequately and solely sourced from Google and that everything is available on the 'Internet'.

There's a difference between what I will call 'Internet' resources (commonly referred free resources found in a search engine) and electronic or e-resources (usually expensive but high-quality resources, articles, information offered via a Library, company purchase or a very steep credit card bill).  Information is a business and commodity and this is where Librarians come in.  Librarians are expert information professionals, highly knowledgeable about the resources and how they integrate into ICT, they work to negotiate prices to open-up access to these resources to patrons, they offer expertise and training on almost anything information/knowledge related (this scope is growing exponentially, thought to double every five years now). 

We may love books (but as the explosion of the ebook market shows we're not the only ones!) but it no longer is our be and end-all.  I'll be honest, it's rare that I touch a book at work and I don't have that many to work with anyways! Instead, my day is spent either in front of a computer, in a training lab, in teh departments or in meeting rooms.  My expertise and skills are what define my role not the few materials on the last existing shelf.  The space may be a bit print-lean but the computers, study space and group areas are just as important to the modern patron.  The Library may look different, the Librarian may do things differently but that doesn't mean it's an irrelevant space or occupation, in fact they may even be more relevent in the 2011 information-rich society than ever before.

Knowledge and education should never really need an explanation: unfortunatey all too often it does.

16 May 2011

From HIRU with Love: McMaster's HIRU offers Nursing+

It's been too long since my last post, so hopefully this handy little tool makes up for the tardiness!

McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario Canada is well known for its nursing program, but in the health information world it's a star in its own right for the HIRU (Health Information Research Unit).  The HIRU is a leader in evidence-based informatics with a whole range of tools and resources that could (and likely will) offer me hours of posting fodder.  In honour of last week's Nursing Week (I did mention my posting had been tardy) this post will highlight one tool they offer in particular to the Nursing world: Nursing+

This site is a searchable database of high-ranking clinical journals offering tailored email alerts to new articles within your interests.  It doesn't stop there though: Nursing+ also offers these articles pre-rated by HIRU staff and rated again by an international panel of 3 practicing nurses.  It's a great service for cutting through the huge amounts of available information whilst ensuring there's an easy and understandable way to decipher which of that information is best!

It simply takes a quick registration, and being a HIRU service you know you're going to get quality!

Check out their site for more information and sign up to start searching.

15 April 2011

Managing Citations: I Never Leave Home Without Zotero

I remember the thing I dreaded the most about authoring papers/articles was not the research, was not the writing but was the dreaded citations!  This of course was before any sort of reasonably priced 'citation software' and before I happened across the open-source (meaning free!) citation manager called Zotero.

I had recently moved from using IE to Firefox as my browser and when doing some research on the website of  the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University I came across this funny thing called Zotero which claimed it could compile my citations for me and include them in my work with just clicks of a button.  Not only that, it was a) Free and b) transferable to any computer using Firefox.  From that time I've been a firm supporter if not only because it's open-source unlike RefWorks or EndNote etc.

 The major benefits of Zotero are:

1) It's as simple as clicking a button on your address bar (folder when there's a list of articles and a little page for an individual article (book for a book etc.)

2) There is an increasing number of participating sites/companies that are compatible with Zotero (see here for the full list)

3) They have a Word Plugin, allowing you to cite right in your document and instantly creates a 'Works Cited/Bibliography' for you with a click of a button.

4) You can choose from a list of various citation styles and Zotero does the work for you!  No more scrambling to find the latest version of APA style.  Some 'Institutional' citation styles are even included such as my one of my Alma maters the 'Harvard - adapted for Leeds Met' style was already included so it was simply a matter of clicking on the button!

I could rave on and on about how wonderful this tool is, about how much time and hassle it has saved me over the years, about how it continues to get better and better, about how I think George Mason U and the people at CHNM are my version of rock-stars...but I'll leave it to my readers to take it for a test run and browse around all it's functionality.  Working in health care, time can often be a luxury, so why waste it on tedious tasks like citations especially when someone has done the legwork for free!   If you want some help getting started make sure to go see your Library/Librarian for more info and help.

04 April 2011

All Information is Not Created Equally: Breaking Down Levels of Evidence

I'm sure we all know that some information is better than others:  If you don't, go tell your Librarian that information you find on Google is good enough and you'll be sure to get a good breakdown of the levels of information quality.

 Don't get me wrong I love Google, I certainly use it myself as a starting point, but in the health field I certainly wouldn't end there.  Even within the Library the information resources are not created equally.  For example, the ever popular UptoDate is an excellent resource but many users may not realize it's classified as 'Expert Opinion' and therefore on the bottom of the Levels of Evidence Pyramid (as one would imagine Google doesn't make the cut onto the pyramid at all).  Knowing this: do you treat you patient with information sourced from a combination of a Google search and perhaps an 'expert opinion' resource?  Unfortunately this is all too often the case.  Of course the expert opinion resources are still excellent and created for use when time is at a premium but your Librarian can also help point you quickly in the direction of other resources that offer you a more comprehensive knowledge for your patient care.  These resources include the Cochrane Databases or Evidence Based Medicine Reviews, the TRIP database and more!  

Despite how it may sometimes feel, healthcare is not the business to be trying to turnover results as quick as can be:  patients need your expertise and your expertise needs to be based in high quality information.  Medical Librarians and Libraries are there to help you acquire this quickly from their resources and will most often offer training on these resources as well as evidence based medicine, level of evidence etc.  Contact them for further help, making your work easier and of better quality!

21 March 2011

SaveBabyJoseph: The collision of social media and healhcare

Check out this article in the Globe & Mail about how social media is affecting one hospital, community and family close to home in London ON.:
Hospital confronts social media uprising over care of dying baby

15 March 2011

Cash in on Your Education: Tuition Assistance Programs

Recently I stepped out of the Librarian role to work on a Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for one of my work places.  Though these sorts of perks/programs are often mentioned in work orientations, the information can be easily forgotten when busy lives take over.  So here's a reminder:  Talk to your Organizational Development/HR department about any Tuition Assistance Programs they provide. 
One of the most common barriers for staff when going back or thinking of going back to school is the financial burden; but, in an area such as healthcare , keeping skills and knowledge up to date is essential! So what's a typical TAP?

The Usual TAP Process
  • You sign up for a course and pay the tuition up front (though most people prefer having reimbursement up front the reality of most programs is that the money comes after)
  • Apply and submit to the Corporate TAP program for reimbursement
  • Once final grades/evidence of pass/fail are in the TAP program reimburses you the fee (usually with an annual maximum).
Of course every TAP is different so make sure to look into what your organization offers.  Sometimes there are also clauses requiring continued employment for a given amount of time post-course or requiring an application for funding via professional organizations first.  Nevertheless, if you're currently taking or thinking of taking any courses to upgrade your skills it is definitely worth looking into! 

And if it's nerves holding you back:  talk to your Organizational Development/Learning Department about any courses they might offer to get you back in the groove.  As always, talk to your library staff about how they too can help you with your skills/education needs to keep you up to date and excelling in your role!

07 March 2011

Looking Forward: Advancing Healthcare

Check out this great video by Microsoft's "The Future of..." Series: this one of course being healthcare.  Pretty amazing!

Future Vision of Healthcare
Uploaded by MicrosoftEurope. - Discover more science and tech videos.

28 February 2011

Overwhelmed? Stay updated at your leisure

The story:
You're busy.  Your Inbox is constantly full.  Your time is limited.  In a surge of professional enthusiasm you decided to have the table of contents from your most read professional journals sent to you electronically (eTOC's).  You meant well (and still do) but the incessant number of emails you get means often times these eTOC's slip past your scouring email-eye.  Next thing you know you're searching through old emails trying to find the latest articles or searching the publisher's site trying to find the contents of the recent issue.  Overall you're annoyed: this eTOC which was supposed to be an easy way to keep updated seems lost in cyberspace. What happened to the good old days when it simply showed up in tangible paper form courtesy of your hospital Librarian?  Well, before we start getting misty-eyed about justifiably discarded practices, and ready to throw our electronic baby out with that bathwater, note there is a better way!

First though let's reaffirm why eTOC's are better than their print predecessors

eTOC advantages:
1) They link right to the abstract/article meaning 'instant access' if you have a subscription
2) You can access it from anywhere you have access to email (no more carrying around loose pieces of paper)
3) They are automatic and not contingent on whether someone is 'in the office' to send it
4) They're green! (unless of course you print off your emails)

Now that we feel refreshed on our original resolve for eTOC's let's look at an even better way!

Look for the orange and white RSS Feed symbol!

RSS Feeds, Google Reader, or your Library Intranet site

With RSS feeds, (which are available from most Journal Publisher websites) you can automatically link to the most recent issues of your selected journals.  You can either set up a Google Reader account or add it to your already existing Google account.  Google Reader makes setting up automatic journal feeds easy and browsing new issues/articles a cinch!  There's the option of searching and adding journal feeds from the Reader interface "Add a Subscription" button or from the individual journal homepages.  From the Publisher's site, instead of signing up for an email to be sent simply go their RSS Feeds page and click on the 'Subscribe to this feed in Google Reader' link.  Now all the new articles from these journals will show up automatically on one page in your Reader account!  Sounds nice especially when you think of the mass of rogue emails floating around somewhere in your inbox.  Google Reader keeps them neat, organized, contained in one space and is very user-friendly!
You can also sign up to follow new posts from your favorite blogs *cough cough* also searchable from the "Add a Subscription" button on your Reader main page

Snapshot of Google Reader

Another option sometimes offered by Libraries is a 'Current Awarenss' page where the RSS feeds of major journals are linked to the Library site so you can see the latest articles/latest issue of your favourite heavy-hitters.  Though useful it may not be offered by all Libraries and will of course not be as tailored to your needs as the Google Reader option. 

Talk to your Librarian about how to use RSS feeds, whether they offer a centralized 'Current Awareness' page or for assistance and/or setting up feeds on a Google Reader account.  Keeping these updates organized, contained and easily accessible is just one step closer to keeping you sane, keeping your inbox clearer and keeping your good intentions intact!

18 February 2011

mish mash MeSH: What your Librarian's talking about & how to construct a better search

So you're doing a topic search in one of your Library's databases: you enter a term and are asked to choose between keyword or MeSH term but what's this gobblygoop 'MeSH' and why is it relevant to your search?  Well let's break it down.
MeSH versus Keyword

Keyword: When searching by keyword you are essentially searching the articles for any instance of that word.  For example, if you enter the term 'Arm' into Medline and search by keyword your results will include all the articles within the database that mention the word 'Arm' anywhere in the article. In other words you'll get articles relating to arms (as in the human appendage) but you'll also be getting back irrelevant articles e.g. 'Arm yourself against the common cold'.  Bottom line: keyword searches can result in a lot of unwanted results.  Of course it may still be useful but I would recommend using keywords only if there is no MeSH term available.  Of course I still haven't defined MeSH!

MeSH:  MeSH stands for Medical Subject Heading and are used for indexing biomedical articles for both the PubMed and Medline Databases.  When published, articles are assigned MeSH headings by staff  at the National Library of Medicine.  Essentially, they're a controlled 'label' assigned to the journal.  If I were to do my same search with the term "Arm" and choose the MeSH option instead of the keyword my results will be contained to articles relating only to the human appendage or 'upper extremity' (which is where the 'arm' heading falls under in the MeSH hierarchy).

Let's look at the difference!

Database: Medline
Search term: Arm
Keyword search only: 87,901 results
MeSH search: 23,249 results
Difference: 64,654 fewer results with MeSH

Though 23,249 is still a huge result, when you start combining it with other terms similarly narrowed with MeSH you end up with much more tangible results than a keyword-only search.  Talk to your Librarian if you want some more information/help with MeSH or any literature searching strategies!

27 January 2011

It's all free!: The myth of library resources and how to get past those usenames and passwords

I can't even count the number of times I've been told something along the lines "It's free on the Internet" or "Library?  But I can just get it online".  Ask any Librarian and this is probably the most frustrating myth of the job:  Yes there are many open-source (free) resources on the Internet but the majority of the quality information comes at a cost, an often very steep cost.  As I've said before, no longer are Librarians bound to books, they are highly skilled computer wizards who work very hard behind the scenes to purchase, make accessible and maintain online resources so that their patrons can access it all without a hitch.

In the early days of the Internet and online resources Librarians had to purchase access using a usename and password meaning the end-user/patron had to have a list of these to access each individual resource.  Now, often times (though not all) Librarians have been able to work with vendors to establish IP authenticated access, put simply: Site-wide access without the username and password!

This is excellent if you're on site at your institution but I often get the question about accessing these resources from home.  Again here is where the list of username and passwords has traditionally been used; however, most larger institutions now have 'off-site' access available through the IT department.  The IT department sets you up with one username and password specifically assigned to you and once you've logged in once you can access your work files and likely the Intranet meaning: password-free access to all the library electronic resources! Talk to your IT department about whether off-site access is an option.

It's the easiest hassle-free way to get these resources, making it once again feel like it's free!  Just remember for all those resources working seamlessly for you there's a Librarian working hard behind the scenes.

06 January 2011

Imaging Medicine in 2011

Let's start the new year off gently:  Most of us are coming back to a full inbox, a stack of messages and a lengthy to do list with only a few days off!  Instead of offering another information tip or tool that would add to the reading pile I thought perhaps a visual topic would be a more appealing: a softer way to ease into things for the New Year.  Appealing and softer does NOT refer to the subject matter (which is often pretty graphic); nevertheless, since this is a clinical info blog the 'visual nature' shouldn't be anything out of the ordinary for most of my readers.

As I was working on updating gastrointestinal information/resources for an updated MLA Encyclopedic Guide I came across NEJM's "Images in Clinical Medicine", an image bank browsable by specialty.  What's great is the clinician's description and brief case history related to the images, including the name and contact of the clinician submitting the photograph and definitely worth a browse!

Want more image resources?  Check out these ones below!
  • Hardin MD : From the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa
  • Trip Database : After a search images are located on the lower right hand side
  • HONMedia : A Geneva based, UN consultative database of medical images and videos
  • Medical Image Resources : A more comprehensive list of image databases compiled by UBC
Keep in mind that these images may be subject to copyright so make sure to contact the publisher/author/photographer if you're going to use these resources for more than your own research or information.