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The UK magazine Update recently carried a story on how health information provision is being coordinated in the UK National Health Service. It contains a striking quote about the value of information – the ‘application of what we know’ – from Dr Muir Grey who has been very involved in this area for several years.
The visionary’s view of information as a key resource in clinical practice was set out in a recent consultation document, Best Current Evidence Strategy [.doc]. In it Muir (as he is known in health information circles) makes a challenging proposition: ‘The application of what we know will have a bigger impact on health and disease than any single drug or technology likely to be introduced in the next decade.’
According to Muir, ‘by putting knowledge into practice, we can prevent or minimise the seven universal problems of healthcare’. In his model there are three strands to working with knowledge: the Best Current Evidence Service (explored in detail in the report); the NLH [National Library for Health], which he sees as being charged with ‘organising and mobilising the evidence’; and the National Knowledge Infrastructure, which contains technical standards, tools and services. [CILIP | New roles for information professionals in the NHS – Stephen Singleton]
At the same time, Adam Bosworth of Google has been writing about how patients need better access to organized health information, better ways of controlling their own health information, and better ways of connecting to others with similar health interests. He highlights some of the ways in which inefficiencies in information access and use complicate diagnosis, treatment and choice of care-giver and goes on to say:
These are some of the health-related problems we’re thinking through at Google. We don’t have any products or services to announce yet and may not for quite some time, but we thought we’d share a bit about the problems we’re interested in helping out on even before we introduce solutions. As we explore these problems and continue to work on them, we hope to share more about our efforts along the way. [Official Google Blog: Health care information matters]
In each case we see the value of ‘evidence’ and the importance of mobilizing it more effectively by practitioners and patients alike.