By Megan Rauscher
Cancer patients seeking timely, accurate, unbiased information on the
Internet about a disease and its treatment might do well to enlist the
help of a professional librarian.
According to a study reported today at the Medical Library
Association's annual meeting in Phoenix, cancer patients are more
likely to find what they are looking for with a librarian-mediated
search instead of "going it alone."
Over the last five years, Ruti Volk, a professional librarian and
manager of the Patient Education Resource Center (PERC) at the
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and colleagues
have done about 2,100 searches for cancer patients. After each
mediated-search, patients are asked to complete an evaluation on the
information provided to them.
Results from 513 evaluations revealed several interesting findings,
Volk noted in an interview with Reuters Health. "One of the most
interesting was that 65 percent of patients said they were not able to
obtain the information that we sent to them from any other
source. They were not able to get it by themselves by using the
Internet; they didn't get it from a healthcare provider or from a
An additional 30 percent of PERC visitors said the librarian provided
some new information. Only 4 percent said they found all the same
information on their own.
"This demonstrates," said Volk, "that even though the information is
supposedly so accessible and everything is on the web, people still
need the help of a professional to find information that is relevant
to them that is current and accurate and authoritative."
Librarians have access to resources sometimes unavailable to the
public such as subscription-based databases. But the biggest
advantage, Volk said, is expertise in searching. "I do this every day,
I should do it better than other people," she said.
Most comprehensive cancer centers have patient resource centers, but
not all of them are staffed by trained librarians skilled in finding
pertinent healthcare information, Volk also noted.
"If people want to gain an in-depth understanding of their condition
or they have a complex question, it is wise to enlist the help of a
professional librarian," she said.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.