Patients Need Help Finding Medical Information

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Medical Information

Despite the ease and availability of Internet searches, cancer patients looking for information about their disease found more information by seeking help from a librarian than by searching on their own, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Patients and families visiting the Cancer Center's Patient Education Resource Center were surveyed about the information they received in response to a search request. For 65 percent of visitors, the professional search returned information they had not obtained from other sources, and an additional 30 percent said the librarian provided some new information. Only 4 percent of users said they found all the same information on their own.

"Just because the information is there doesn't mean people can access it. Not everyone is on the Internet. And of those who are, only a few are knowledgeable about search strategies and techniques that are key to locating quality information on medical issues. Every search on Google or Yahoo! will turn up a list of results, but these results do not necessarily link to the best information sources about a topic," says Ruti Volk, M.S.I, a librarian and manager of the Patient Education Resource Center at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Volk will present her findings Sunday, May 21, at the Medical Library Association's annual meeting in Phoenix.

The study included 513 evaluations from visitors to the Patient Education Resource Center, or PERC. Evaluations included multiple choice questions and a space to write comments.

The PERC is a full service library with a comprehensive collection of print and audiovisual resources on all aspects of cancer, from disease and treatment information to coping and support resources. More than 4,000 people visited the PERC last year.

A librarian can access resources not available to the general public at home, including subscription-based databases and a collection of print resources accumulated over time and through experience. But Volk says the biggest advantage a librarian adds is expertise in searching.

"I do this every day

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