January 21, 2000

Eskind Biomedical Library set to fill patients’ information prescriptions

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Information specialists Kimbra Wilder Gish (left), Antoinette Nelson and Donna Carrell examine a book to add to the Patient Informatics Consult Service. The Eskind Biomedical Library program provides patients with information resources tailored to their needs. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Eskind Biomedical Library set to fill patients' information prescriptions

The married couple were in their mid-50s and that morning they were informed of the husband’s diagnosis — small lymphocytic lymphoma. The doctor explained the disease, discussed treatment options and gave them a slip of paper titled “Patient Prescription for Information.”

The couple's next stop wasn't a pharmacy, it was the Patient Informatics Consult Service (PICS) at Eskind Biomedical Library.

Facilitated by a Patient Care Innovation Grant from Vanderbilt Medical Group, PICS offers a range of services for Vanderbilt patients. It marks a change from times past when there were few VUMC library materials available for patients. Extending the concept of librarians as information consultants to medical center staff and clinicians, PICS is designed to aid health care decision making by patients and families.

“The key insight of this initiative is that information specifically tailored for the patient will be more useful than generic medical information,” said Marcia Epelbaum, assistant director of library operations and coordinator of health information services.

Doctors are provided with “information prescription” pads similar to those used to prescribe antibiotics. This helps to ensure that the patient’s information needs are communicated clearly, without the risk of a patient forgetting the name of a condition or co-morbid state. The written prescription enables librarians to guide patients and family members in their search for information, significantly decreasing the risk that the patient or family member will mistake irrelevant material as pertinent information.

Also in the interest of clear communication, PICS sends a copy of each patient’s personalized information packet (see below) to the patient’s clinician.

The following confidential services are available to all Vanderbilt patients through the PICS program:

• Information packets of carefully selected materials relevant to the patient’s clinical situation; packets may include a selection of journal articles with salient points highlighted and summarized, as well as information from authoritative web sites and consumer health texts.

Target turnaround time for packet preparation is two business days.

• A collection of consumer health books and videos.

• A web site — www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/pics — which includes “pathfinders” created by EBL information specialists.

Each pathfinder includes a disease description and selected resources for further information.

The site also houses the electronic version of the information prescription pad.

• Computers for patients to locate and view health care material.

• A private consultation room for conferences between patients and information specialists.

This room is also used for private viewing of consumer health videos.

For more information about PICS or to request patient prescription pads, call Marcia Epelbaum at 936-1364 or visit the web site at www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/pics.