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Like Cathy Wolfson, we have noted from time to time that health care
practitioners are referring their patients to us for information about
conditions they have or procedures they are about to undergo in therapy.
We're flattered, sometimes, and many times mystified by the information
patients bring with them which isn't always helpful to us or to them in
understanding what the health care practitioner who referred them may
have wanted.
 
Several years ago, in conjunction with the nurses, physicians and
pharmacists on the pediatric oncology ward in the hospital where this
(academic) library is located, we created an "Information Prescription"
which addresses some of the problems we all were encountering.  We gave
copies of the prescription form to health care practitioners (initially
on the pediatric oncology ward) who see patients (or their parents, in
the case of pediatric oncology) who have questions. On a few occasions,
we have given copies of the prescription form to a library patron with
questions (but not enough information) and encouraged them to take it
back to their health care practitioner to be filled in.
 
The practitioner fills out the form with the patient's name and question
(or topic, if the question is a broad one) and gives it to the inquirer
(the patient or the parent) who brings it to the library and presents it
at our Information Desk.  This way, we usually (not always, though) get
better information about the diagnosis or the topic, and the name of the
health care practitioner making a referral to us (in case we need to
contact them for more information).
 
We help the inquirer use our collection to answer some of their concerns,
and urge them to use space on the form for recording bibliographic
details about the items they are reading.  The librarian providing the
help also signs the form, so that the health care practitioner can
contact us again, if necessary. We urge the inquirer to record
questions they have or encounter in their reading and to take these
questions and the citations back to the referring health care
practitioner for discussion and follow-up.  In using the form to make a
referral, the health care practitioner is co-opted into follow-up with
the patient at a later date, if the patient requests it.  As a side
benefit we find that the use of the form where the patient/inquirer has
recorded what was read sometimes stimulates CE activity in the referring
health care practitioner after discussion.
 
There is some resistance/reluctance on the part of health care
practitioners to using the form.  We aren't swamped with patients bearing
Information Prescriptions.  When we get them, though, the encounter with
the inquirer in the library is often a better one, and the health care
practitioners who use the forms often seem to satisfy their patients'
needs in a way others don't.
 
I'd be happy to fax a copy of the form we use to anyone who may be
interested in it.  Please include your fax number in a message sent to me
privately. Please take care not to send your request to everyone reading
the list (MEDLIB-L).
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Tom Flemming                    Internet: [log in to unmask]
Health Sciences Library         Ariel: 130.113.181.186
McMaster University             Voice: (905) 525-9140  x22321
1200 Main Street West           Fax:   (905) 528-3733
Hamilton, ON   L8N 3Z5
 
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