medical librarian

How Medical Librarians Support Improved Patient Care and Clinical Outcomes

What are Medical Librarians

Medical librarians streamline healthcare education and have a massive, eventual impact on patient care. Medical librarians and medical libraries connect organizations with knowledge to drive outcome improvements. 

In today’s world, PubMed, Google, and other internet search engines, make it easy to find answers to any question you can think of, but accessing accurate, reliable, and focused information and sifting through the endless amounts of information available online, is more difficult and time consuming. Medical and hospital librarians overcome this challenge by combing through and analyzing complex information to find what’s needed, saving caregivers the time of trying to do it themselves. 

Medical librarians support evidence-based research through their advanced search skills, information resource instruction, and support of institution-level performance improvement or quality initiatives. Medical librarians provide expert knowledge of library resources like PubMed, Cinahl®, UpToDate®, Micromedex®, Lippincott®Procedures, Elsevier ClinicalKey®, Embase®, Cochrane Library, and countless others. Resources that are available through medical libraries contain vital information that support continuing medical education (CME), offer clinical evidence on the latest innovations and advancements in medicine, clinical trial data, patient case studies for practitioners to reference, decision support information for physicians and pharmacists, best practices for nurses and much more. Librarians are also skilled at knowing which resources to build into the library’s collection to make it a high-value source of information for your staff, medical providers, caregivers, researchers and students. Medical Librarians directly support physician and nursing excellence by connecting medical professionals with the vital information they need for improved patient outcomes.

Benefits of Medical Librarians

Medical libraries provide data and evidence that helps medical professionals make evidence-based decisions to improve diagnoses and patient outcomes. 

A large-scale study done by Joanne Gard Marshall, Ph.D., AHIP., FMLA ,et. al., observed the impact of medical libraries and information services provided by medical librarians in 118 hospitals with 16,122 respondents. It was found that medical librarians contributed to better informed clinical decisions in 95% of respondents, impacted the advice given to a patient in 48% of respondents, and affected the choice of drugs prescribed in 33% of the respondents. (1)

Furthermore, respondents felt that the implementation of a medical librarian ultimately led to improvements in the avoidance of adverse-effects – 13% of respondents felt the information provided by librarians reduced misdiagnosis and helped avoid harmful drug interactions, and 12% felt it, reduced medication errors. From the results of this study, it can be inferred that medical libraries, supported by medical librarians, drive better and more informed clinical decisions, leading to improved patient health outcomes. (1)

Medical Libraries- Key to Better Care and Reduced Cost

Medical librarians help health systems improve patient outcomes by providing access to focused, reliable information that supports evidence-based practice in medicine and nursing. Additionally, medical librarians indirectly help to achieve a higher quality of care, reduce costs, and improve the health of the population. They save valuable clinician time and provide evidence to support data-driven improvement.

Medical librarians are a critical asset to healthcare systems. In instances where medical librarians are there to support doctors and other medical professionals, it makes the process of diagnosing patients faster and more accurate. A 2009 study conducted by Elizabeth M. Aitken, MLS , et. al., measured the impact of a clinical librarian with a team of medical residents and clinical clerks and found that “30 of 34 (88%) reported having changed a treatment plan based on skills taught by the clinical librarian, and 27 of 34 (79%) changed a treatment plan based on the librarian’s mediated search support.” (2) Another study conducted by Alison Brettle , et. al., measured specific impacts of a clinical librarian on organizational and patient outcomes and found that 333 (98%) of study participants were able to provide evidence of a clinical librarian favorably impacting patient care by providing research support and evidence-based information services that led to improved clinical decisions by the participant. (3) In addition, results of the study showed that the role of a clinical librarian led to favorable impacts on patient length of stay in the hospital and the avoidance of referrals, readmissions, unnecessary clinical tests and hospitalizations – all of which would lead to reduced costs and improved efficiency. (3) The Marshall study previously mentioned found that 85% of respondents reported that information provided by their medical librarian saved them time, on average, 2.5 hours’ worth. (1)

Impact of Medical Librarians in Healthcare

Medical librarians impact other aspects of the healthcare industry, as well. The roles medical librarians play in the healthcare industry include providing information relating to business development, finance, and legal issues. Each literature search provided by a medical librarian can contribute to multiple opportunities of importance for the healthcare organization such as contributing valuable insight in medical cases, improving quality of patient care, avoiding misdiagnosis, preventing extraneous clinical tests, reducing hospitalizations and readmissions, finding best practices to shorten the average length of stay in the hospital, and many more. Interrelated methods of measurement and evaluation can illustrate the wide range of impact and the nature of how these contributions are made. (1, 2, 3)

A November 2020 report by EconomicsByDesign, funded by the NHS in England, lends further evidence and support of how medical librarians positively influence healthcare decisions, clinical efficiencies, education and awareness, adherence to standards of care and best evidence-based practices, and improved patient outcomes in a variety of direct and indirect ways. (4) In response to the report, Health Education England’s Director of Innovation and Transformation, Patrick Mitchell, said: 

“This report gives us some truly great insight into the value that embedded NHS Library and Knowledge Services bring to staff at all levels of the healthcare system when planning and delivering care for local people… Librarians are probably not the first role that springs to mind when people think about the NHS. However, the part they play, and the specialist expertise they provide, give clinicians some of the most important tools they have to treat patients effectively – information, and time. All the evidence shows that the right knowledge services improve outcomes for patients.” (5)

Life Without a Medical Library or Librarian

In the last decade, however, the tightening of health system finances has strained funding for adequate staff and resources that fuel medical libraries. Many organizations have reduced library staff, chosen not to replace librarians who were retiring, eliminated librarian positions, or completely closed their libraries – in many instances leaving fewer resources for staff to utilize and, all too often, leaving no dedicated librarian professional to support clinicians with research and evidence-based information services. Heather Martin, director of system library services for Providence Health & Services — Alaska, Oregon, and Southern California, once shared, “Demonstrating value (and even fighting for existence) is particularly challenging for libraries within a hospital or health system. As hospitals and health care systems are facing economic challenges, non–revenue-generating departments — like libraries — are often on the chopping block.” (6)

Hospitals, and other healthcare institutions that do not have medical librarians, tend to underperform in terms of provider accuracy, health care delivery costs, caregiver and patient satisfaction, time management, and operational efficiency compared to institutions that do. Their healthcare professionals and caregivers are left to spend extra time (which they don’t have) searching on their own for evidence-based guidance to support accuracy of diagnosis, treatment, and best evidence-based practices. These institutions without a librarian jeopardize their accreditation through agencies like ACGME and Joint Commission, where uninterrupted access to evidence-based information services is one of the guidelines. Institutions seeking to earn or simply working to maintain the prestigious MAGNET recognition for excellence in nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) also have specific obligations regarding evidence-based practice in nursing. A medical librarian and library resources help to support and fulfill those requirements. Without a library or a trained librarian, organizations are putting that MAGNET distinction at risk as well.

Connect with MyHPCLibrarian™ Today!

If your organization is looking to provide medical librarian support for your staff or you are needing additional librarian support beyond what your current team is able to manage currently, there are cost-effective solutions that can help you and are easy and quick to implement, like MyHPCLibrarian™ services offered by HPC International, Inc. ™ To learn more about medical librarian support services, check out MyHPCLibrarian™ service


  1. Marshall, J. G., Sollenberger, J., Easterby-Gannett, S., Morgan, L. K., Klem, M. L., Cavanaugh, S. K., Oliver, K. B., Thompson, C. A., Romanosky, N., & Hunter, S. (2013). The value of library and information services in patient care: results of a multisite study. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA101(1), 38–46. Found Here
  2. Aitken, E. M., Powelson, S. E., Reaume, R. D., & Ghali, W. A. (2011) Involving Clinical Librarians at the Point of Care: Results of a Controlled Intervention, Academic Medicine, Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges : December 2011 – Volume 86 – Issue 12 – p. 1508-1512. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823595cd Found Here
  3. Brettle, A., Maden, M., & Payne, C. (2016) The impact of clinical librarian services on patients and health care organisations. Health Information and Libraries Journal. 17 February 2016 – Volume 33 – Issue 2 – p 100-120. Found Here
  4. NHS-funded Library and Knowledge Services in England Value Proposition: The Gift of Time, A report to Health Education England by EconomicsByDesign. November 2020. Retrieved on 18 November 2021, from Found Here.
  5. “Independent report underlines value of NHS library and knowledge services”. Health Education England, NHS. 3 November 2020. Retrieved on 18 November 2021, from Found Here.
  6. n.a. “The 21st Century Medical Librarian: More Vital than Ever”. 1 June 2017. NEJM LibraryHub, Featured Librarian. Retrieved on 18 November, 2021, from Found Here.

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