The role of the medical school-based consumer health information service.


Historically, medical information has been provided to patients at the physician's discretion. Although this method never has been wholly satisfactory, the trend toward bureaucratic organization of medical care, characterized by impersonal patient encounters and prompted by increased emphasis on cost controls, has restricted patient information even further. Yet, at the same time, the upsurge in consumer power has created patient demand for more health information. Consumers feel they have a right to expect help in obtaining information so they can make informed decisions with respect to their medical care. This paper focuses on the medical school-based consumer health service in this context. In particular, it calls attention to the medical school library as the foundation for expanded health information resources, pointing to the tools of information retrieval, as well as the substantive information contained in the medical, nursing, and allied health literature. In this setting, the consumer health librarian is called upon to act as a mediator in providing quality-filtered information to the patron, while at the same time remaining within the confines of professional expertise as a librarian. Important sources of health information are highlighted, particularly online databases, drug indexes, therapeutic texts, and physician specialist directories.

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