Research on the Value of Medical Library Services: Does It Make an Impact in the Health Care Literature?*
Sherwill-Navarro, Pamela J., Wallace, Addajane L., Journal of the Medical Library Association
Objective: To evaluate the impact in the health care literature of research articles that provided evidence of the value of library services (including MEDLINE) as an element of quality health care.
Data Sources/Selection: Four research articles on the relationship between use of library services and quality health care were selected as "primary articles" from a MEDLINE search using appropriate Medical Subject Heading. Primary articles met the following criteria: written in English, reported research, related to clinical care, and published before 1995.
Data Extraction: The technique of citation analysis was used to measure the impact of the primary articles on the subsequent literature. The number, authorship, type, and publication venue of articles citing the primary articles were determined using ISI Web of Science, MEDLINE, other electronic resources, and the citing articles themselves. For the 146 English-language citing articles, the article type (i.e., advocacy, instructional, research) was noted; and, for those that reported research, the use to which the author put the cited material was determined.
Results: The primary articles were cited more often than the average articles published that year in the same journals. At the time of the study each article had been cited almost every year since publication. Of the 146 citing articles written in English, 43% were written by librarians, 38% by physicians, 12% by librarians with physicians. The majority were published in medical journals, followed in order of decreasing frequency by the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, information science journals, and health administration journals.
Conclusions: The results of this study demonstrate that published research on the value of medical library services has an impact on the literature. These articles are read and cited and continue to be of value.
The current shortage of health care dollars challenges all areas of health care, including medical librarianship, to prove their value to the provision of quality patient care. Managers are expected to provide qualitative and quantitative evidence of their value. This is not a new scenario for hospital librarians. In the mid1980s, David King published a seminal paper on the contribution of hospital library information services to clinical care [I]. The findings of this study provided the impetus for further research in the area. However, to be of value, these research results must be disseminated and articles reporting the research must reach a wide readership and be referenced in other publications.
We decided to determine if articles related to research on the value of medical library services are meeting these criteria. An initial MEDLINE search was done to identify articles beyond the King study. The search was limited to MEDEINE because of its almost universal availability for medical librarians and to investigate its utility or limitations in identifying this type of study.
We used citation analysis to determine how often this research was cited by other articles. We reviewed the articles that cited this research to determine who used the research, where they published, and how they used the information in the articles. The results of this study raise interesting questions for future research and add to our knowledge of publication patterns for medical librarians.
The search to identify articles began with the analysis of the MeSH terms associated with the King article. Articles retrieved using these terms were again analyzed to develop the search strategy. The search performed in MEDEINE (May 2001) used the simple (no explosion) MeSH terms "MEDEINE/utilization or libraries, hospital/utilization or information services/ utilization" combined (AND) with the simple (no explosion) MeSH terms "quality of health care" or "decision making" or "treatment outcome" or "hospital costs. …