Asking and Answering Healthcare Questions in Libraries

May 1, 2014


On Friday, May 9, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the H.F. De Luca Forum, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery,  a panel of experts will address concerns and issues garnered from the efforts of UW–Madison School of Library and Information Studies faculty members and students addressing healthcare questions, and most specifically questions related to electronic medical records. Not only does SLIS teach graduate students about how to offer reference services related to healthcare in public library settings (where serious health questions arise much more than most would expect), but SLIS is also training future record managers.

According to the most recent data available, 39% of office-based healthcare providers and 35% of non-federal acute care hospitals have at least a basic electronic medical record (EMR) system. And that’s a good thing: in a 2012 Harris Poll, healthcare consumers said the second most important factor in creating a positive experience with their physicians was the physician’s ability to access their complete medical history. The only thing more important to that positive experience was the physician’s knowledge, training, and expertise.

The public is clearly interested in using information technologies to monitor and enhance awareness of their health: 69% of US adults are currently tracking a health indicator, either for themselves or a loved one. Thirty-four percent say their tracking activity has changed their decision-making about healthcare and healthy routines. Almost half used an organizing system, whether electronic or paper-based; 21% were using digital solutions such as a spreadsheet, a website, a smartphone app or a device. And 65% of consumers told the Harris Poll in 2012 that online access to their medical records was “important” or “very important” to them.

Photo credit: Jeff Miller/UW Madison
Photo credit: Jeff Miller/UW Madison

But 42% of consumers in another poll didn’t even know if their doctors had EMR technology. “The general public only has a vague idea … of what all this is about,” commented the chairman of the Harris Poll.

EMRs are a challenging technology that raises many questions about information security, patient privacy, best practices in healthcare, and impacts on the doctor-patient relationship. These are questions that deserve public discussion. That is where UW–Madison’s SLIS stepped in. Between April 21st and April 25th, faculty and students from SLIS held free public Q & A sessions at public libraries in Wisconsin. The free sessions opened the floor for the public to ask questions about the basics of EMRs.

The faculty and students came back to the UW–Madison campus and aggregated the questions about EMRs raised by Wisconsin citizens. A panel of experts will come together on Friday, May 9 at Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to report and address the themes raised. The experts are drawn from academia (Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD; Catherine Arnott Smith, PhD; both UW-Madison); industry (Emily Barey, RN, MSN, Epic Systems); and patient advocacy (Laurie Edwards, MFA, writer, teacher, advocate).

Send your own EMR questions via email or leave a voicemail by phone at 608-890-1334.

At a Glance