A Model for Assessing Digital Image Use and Needs: Report of a Study into Digital Image Use in North American Dental Education
Paling, Stephen W., Miszkiewicz, Melissa, Abbas, June, Zambon, Joseph, Library Resources & Technical Services
This study is presented as one possible model for assessing image use and needs that can inform planning for and creation of a digital image repository. The study described here specifically sought to provide basic knowledge about the current use of digital images in North American dental schools, as well as what future needs might occur among digital image users. It was conducted as part of an ongoing needs assessment for possible construction of an online repository of digitized dental images. The research team conducted semistructured interviews with a purposive sample of dental faculty members at a representative dental school, as well as a brief survey of academic deans. Findings indicated use of digital dental images is nearly ubiquitous among faculty members, but that not all of their needs are being met. The faculty members would benefit from access to an online repository of high-quality digital dental images with accompanying metadata.
Many institutions and disciplines are exploring the creation of digital image repositories. The research project described here investigates questions pertinent to most types of digital image repositories--namely, the needs that drive image use, whether these needs can be met through an online repository, the functional elements that image users would be most helpful, and whether individuals would be willing to contribute images to a shared repository. The process followed in conducting the research reported in this paper can be applied to research into other types of discipline-based image repositories.
The needs assessment described in this paper was prompted by the presence at the University at Buffalo's (UB) School of Dental Medicine of a collection of high-quality dental slides donated by a retired faculty member to be made available to the educational community. The extensive collection includes slides that could be professionally digitized and made available online as the core of a repository of digital dental images. The collection is currently in physical form.
Rather than simply making the images available within the school, the research team decided to assess the feasibility of making the images available to the broader community of dental faculty members and researchers. This needs assessment was designed to determine the image-related needs of dental faculty members and to determine whether an online repository of digitized dental images could meet any needs discovered during the study.
To provide basic knowledge about dental-image use by faculty members at North American dental schools, and how efforts to provide an online repository of digitized dental images might help the work of those faculty members, this study asked the following research questions:
RQ1: What needs drive digital image use by dental faculty members?
RQ2; Can the respondents' needs be met by the creation of an online repository of digitized dental images?
RQ3: What functional elements of the proposed online repository of digitized dental images would be most helpful to users?
RQ4: Would members of the larger dental community be willing to contribute further material to the proposed online repository of digitized dental images?
The research team conducted the needs assessment in three stages. In the first stage, members of the research team conducted semistructured interviews with dental faculty members at the UB School of Dental Medicine. The second stage involved a brief national survey of academic deans from North American dental schools. The third stage involved a longer national survey of dental faculty members from North American dental schools.
While several articles have addressed the use, or potential use, of images in dental practice, little is documented about the content and types of images needed or how they are collected, stored, and retrieved by dental professionals, faculty, researchers, and students. (1) This basic knowledge is necessary for establishing the context into which a repository of digitized dental images might be introduced.
As use of computing and imaging technology continues to move forward, dental schools continue to train faculty and students to use computing technology. According to a 2002 literature review performed by Hendricson of the San Antonio Health Sciences Center, 558 English-language articles from 1996 through 2002 were published addressing some aspect of computer-assisted instruction in the health professions. (2) A companion piece published by Hendricson and colleagues found that 86 percent of North American dental schools have already expanded their use of information technology as part of their curricula, with 82 percent hoping to increase IT use further. (3)
Many dental faculty and practicing dentists throughout North America have amassed large collections of images over their years in the field. These images exist in many forms: digital, plastic and glass slides, and video tape, for example. While most faculty use their own collections daily, many do not have an easy way to share their collections with others, or to make use of the collections of others. Dental practitioners are also using computers extensively in their offices. According to Schleyer and his colleagues, only 1 percent of dentists used computers in their offices in 1976, but this had changed by 2000, when "85.1% of all dentists in the United States used a computer in the office." (4) While discussing the patient-dentist experience in a technologically equipped office, Feuerstein pointed to digital photography and radiology as tools to enhance the visual clinical examination and patient consultation. (5) In an article exploring the role of IT in the dentist-patient relationship, Kirshner noted that "digital imaging may have the most profound effect on the dentist-patient relationship, due to its immediacy and ease of understanding through recognizable visualizations." (6)
Casual sharing of images is unlikely to have the effect that an organized repository could have. Fortunately, the infrastructure already exists for the delivery of high-quality medical images and appropriate metadata in the form of the Health Education Assets Library (HEAL, www.healcentral.org). The research team has been in contact with staff members at HEAL, and the inclusion in HEAL of the images from the UB School of Dental Medicine donated collection is feasible, pending funding. Part of the planning process includes producing standards-compliant metadata that can be cross-referenced with HEAL metadata. This paper, however, focuses on establishing basic needs on the part of dental faculty members and researchers.
The semistructured interviews in the first stage were meant to elicit detailed information about the use of images in the working lives of dental faculty members. The sample for this part of the study was a purposive sample for heterogeneity. The interview respondents worked in a variety of dental specialties, including several respondents who worked in allied health specialties and taught within the School of Dental of Medicine. The questions that were used to guide the interviews are presented in appendix A.
Semistructured interviews were appropriate for the first stage of the needs assessment because they allow an interviewer to cover a list of important topics, but also allow for exploration of unanticipated themes during the interviews. (7) Thus the interviewers could cover planned questions such as whether interview respondents …
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Publication information: Article title: A Model for Assessing Digital Image Use and Needs: Report of a Study into Digital Image Use in North American Dental Education. Contributors: Paling, Stephen W. - Author, Miszkiewicz, Melissa - Author, Abbas, June - Author, Zambon, Joseph - Author. Journal title: Library Resources & Technical Services. Volume: 52. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 2008. Page number: 173+. © 1989 American Library Association. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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