Archive for the ‘How to work better’ Category

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Approaching overload

In How to work better on April 12, 2011 by africker Tagged: , , ,

Brilliant post from Nicholas Carr differentiating between situational overload and ambient overload (the comments are also worth a read).  He argues against the Clay Shirky talk that advanced “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”

I agree with Carr – better filters mean that rather than just finding the good stuff we find ourselves overwhelmed with good stuff.  In health I find increasingly I am guiding users to places where they won’t be buried under an avalanche of interesting material about their topic. In the mean time there are still needles in haystacks – check out this video of a GP trying to locate a fact in some NICE Guidance.   I wonder what they will make of the new NICE pathways promised for May of this year?

(Incidentally Shirky is speaking at the MLA in Minneapolis – wouldn’t it be great to have a something of a similar ilk at a future HLG conference!).

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IE6 where is thy death?

In Eresources,How to work better on March 31, 2011 by africker Tagged: , , ,

So Microsoft have declared the death of IE6 and you can watch it going on a special site – Internet Explorer 6 Countdown

Not everyone is convinced about the good intentions of MS with suggestions that globally much IE6 use is on pirated XP software and that IE8 without a development path from IE6 is not a great help

I rather like this earlier site suggesting we should in fact be saving IE6.  I particularly like how the Save IE6 site congratulates me on using self same browser while the countdown site points out the error of my browsing ways.

Yes – along with many in the NHS I am living in an IE6 world.  The IE6 Countdown reckons only 3.5% of browser share in the UK is IE6.  I wonder how much of this must be the NHS (this article would suggest DWP have plenty still)?

Checking Google Analytics on my library catalogue for the last three months (Jan – Mar 2011) we get 94% IE use overall with 83% of that being IE6.  The same period last year (Jan – Mar 2010) offers 95% IE overall with 93% of those IE6.  And one more year back (Jan – Mar 2009) – I have no data – thanks Google Analytics.

So what does this tell us ?  IE6 is falling slowly in the NHS but much slower than in the world at large.  The reason for this is well known – a number of critical NHS systems still require IE6 as Microsoft realises and the DoH seems to want to ignore.

And how much of a problem is this?  I think it is an accelerating one.  Gradually the web is becoming a hostile place for IE6 – formatting awry on some pages, warnings on others and total block outs for newer versions of some sites.  And the systems we use are starting to suffer – Proquest have a problem, Google Reader warns me daily, EBSCOhost requires IE7.  On the plus side NHS Evidence have largely managed to keep the IE6 show on the road.

Our lovely local IT folk have installed Firefox on our machines but this is only a very partial solution.  People are going to use their regular IE (6) browser as long as it remains available.  I also do not really want the library team to get used to seeing something different to the bulk of the users. 

I am afraid this one will run and run (or fail to run and display really badly).

PS Post title from a music blog post title that still amuses me to this day.

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Should we teach evidence based medicine or information management?

In Evidence-Based Medicine,How to work better on November 5, 2010 by Hanna Tagged: ,

So asks an article in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research this month. Evidence Based Medicine seeks to encourage the appraisal of the best evidence to answer clinical questions but this is not always practical in clinical practice: who has time to do a systematic review at the bedside?

The authors of the paper say that in order to triumph opinion and established methods in orthopaedic surgery clinicians need to be able to move beyond critical appraisal and know what sorts of information to use. The article distinguishes between ‘foraging’ and ‘hunting’ tools: ‘foraging’ tools are current awareness tools that alert a clinician to new resources in their field.

However, information obtained in this way rarely results in the clinician’s learning more than simply that the actual information exists (life would be so much easier if we could read something once, reflect on it, and thenremember it flawlessly when it is needed). Thus, a hunting tool is needed to retrieve relevant and valid information quickly when it is required in the care of patients. (page 2335-6)

These are clinical decision making aids and they summarise actions whilst including evidence quality gradings and take into account patient outcomes. This of course is not revolutionary, just interesting to read from a clinical point of view what library services are useful for and how to differentiate them and sell them in the language used by clinicians. Importantly the articles says that not all clinicians need to be fully competent in all 5 levels of EBM knowledge and practice (developing a quesiont, finding the evidence, evaluating the evidence, applying the evidence and reviewing ongoing practice) but in a competency based model of the 3 stages of information management they have different needs at different stages in their career or depending on their role. The information management framework says that they should at level 1 manage information at the point of care, at level 2 select the appropriate hunting tool and by level 3 they should be making patient-centered (and interestingly not evidence-centered) decisions. Perhaps it could be termed moving from the academic view of EBM to a more pragmatic applied view.

Orthopaedic surgeons work in a world in which access to medical information can provide rapid answers to queries. Taking that information access a step further would be to have access to high quality information that gives answers based upon EBM, that is relevant to the patient, has been analyzed and validated by EBM experts and is now ready to use. Information management is the engineering science that connects the surgeon to the high quality information when and where it’s needed. Working backward toward our orthopaedists in training, learning to apply information management to patient-centered care requires a shift. That shift is away from wrestling with the 5 steps of EBM and moving to the appropriate level of IM. (page 2638)

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Are you loyal to your profession, or your company?

In How to work better,Information industry on October 15, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

I was reading an article on why everyone hates HR. The post was so so, but what I found really interesting were the comments. Taking them as representative, people really do hate HR! (but of course, who takes comments as representative, or at least representative of what…?). Anyway, regardless of my views re: HR, one of the comments caught my eye:

“Though a bit wordy – I think you are correct.. IT departments do the same aswell – They feel they are separate from the business and by thinking it, make it so..”

… thus making the point that somehow HR professionals consider themselves in some way removed from the rest of the business. And I wondered, are information professionals and librarian-y types the same? If I were to ask you, do you consider your first loyalty to your profession, or to your company – which would it be? If you had to do something that in some way “harmed” your standing as an info pro, or “harmed” the requirements of your business, which would you choose?

For me I didn’t need to think about it at all – my loyalty is to my company; the needs of the business. Perhaps this is why I don’t sometimes feel like I’m a fully paid-up member of the information profession – that and because I joined the profession relatively late. But I think I’m right, aren’t I? I mean, what is the point, from a CEO’s point of view, of having an employee who is not primarily thinking of the needs of the business? Surely we’re doing ourselves no favours if we’re too precious about our profession?

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Top alerting services for monitoring drug developments and other things

In Eresources,How to work better,Information industry on October 5, 2010 by Hanna Tagged: , , , ,

We had a discussion at work recently about how we should keep up to date with drug topics we monitor. We do this to see what is happening with licensing in this country and/or in the US/Europe and then we might also be tracking disease areas also for other types of work. So what to use? We previously gave the drug topic monitoring job to one person in the team who would scan choice journals and send photocopies of the results but these were often out of date and this is an onerous job for one person remembering perhaps 10s or 100s of topic indications. We narrowed down the following to some essentials and others as optional but I would be interested to know what sources other people use.

  1. NeLM or National Electronic Library of Medicine. A “‘one stop’ platform from which users can easily find medicines information that matters in a simple and coherent manner”. Daily email alert delivered as headlines and often includes commentary and links to original sources. Pretty much our gold standard. Takes info from a range of sources: UK medicines information (UKMi), National Prescribing Centre and Medicines Compendium online to name but a few.
  2. PharmaTimes. This is on our core list as well although I have to admit I don’t use it, I think there was something weird about their sign up and it didn’t want to sign me up argh. We purchase some similar titles and this is all about e-TOCs.
  3. New drugs online. Produced by UKMi and ingested by NHS Evidence as well, NHS registered people can access more info than publically accessible too. Excellent for news and reporting of trials/regulatory stuff for new drugs. Example for lorcaserin for obesity.
  4. Medical News Today. US based although however news is captured it is truely worldwide. Sources include “JAMA, BMJ, Lancet, BMA, plus articles written by our own team”. Categorised into sections covering major disease areas these daily alerts are very comprehensive.
  5. Drugs.com. US again but good for FDA alerts that may influence European/National decisions. Probably more generalist/consumer level information
  6. Pharmalot. Blog from which you can receive alerts along the lines of investigative journalism and debate about pharmaceutical companies and drug development in general. Or “commentary on the pharmaceutical industry and related litigation.” The backstory of what makes the news later e.g. rosiglitazone.
  7. And other things: NHS Institute alerts (mainly implementation and while we’re on that see Implementation Science journal), the CASH database which aimed to be the national current awareness service although is reportedly biased towards whoever is updating it weekly and more traditional alerts from saved searches and e-TOCs galore.

How you manage these is up to you. I can’t help but scan them almost daily but do searches of the folder I bung them in in my inbox on a monthly basis…

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Charisma. It’ll take care of itself

In How to work better on September 23, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

Whenever you meet someone “important”, let’s say a CEO, an influential academic, a successful (or indeed unsuccessful) entrepreneur, or a prodigious blogger with a large following, *sigh*, one is often struck by how charismatic they are. They seem to be comfortable with themselves and carry quiet (or sometimes loud) authority. I often think that their confidence and charisma were no doubt key to them getting to their successful position in life, work, organisation, profession etc.

Then on the train the other day I was watching a TED podcast with Seth Godin talking about leading tribes. It’s worth watching, just ten mins or so. But right at the end of the talk, virtually the last sentence I think, he said that if you fear that you don’t have the charisma (or the force of personality, or the “quiet authority”) to lead a tribe he said don’t worry, simply being the leader, being the person who took it upon themselves to take the initiative, will give you charisma. I mean apparently, even John Major had a certain “presence” when he was prime minister: there’s hope for us all.

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The death of bloglines

In Eresources,How to work better,Web 2.0 & all that on September 16, 2010 by africker Tagged: , , , ,

My much loved bloglines account has got to go.  After 6 plus years of faithful service (an eternity in web terms) Ask have seen fit to kill it off

Apparently no one reads RSS anymore (stats for Google Reader use suggest something different) – all part of the death of the blog meme (see also, Death of the blog comment and so on).  All the cool kids are on twitter.  So why am I so annoyed?  Bloglines didn’t ever develop much (I tried the major revision they released and soon retreated to the basic old version) but it did a pretty good job of the task in hand.  Reading was quick and I saved the things I either couldn’t follow up immediately or wanted to hang on to.  I never noticed the problems others alleged with outages and the Bloglines Plumber.

So what?  Just move to Google Reader like most people have already. Problem is I already have a Google Reader account used for a Current Awareness Service. I can have two Google Accounts logged in at once but it gets all tangled on itself quite frequently.   Thus far I don’t particularly like Google Reader as a user experience either.

Oh and of course I work mostly in IE6 land.  So everytime I go into Google Reader it suggests I need to upgrade my software.  And Google are definitely starting to get more aggressive not even allowing IE6 folk to use some of their products (hurrah no Google Instant for me!) so I may be out on my ear in the not too distant future. 

Others have said it but once more with feeling – thanks Ask – thanks a lot.

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Professional networking & development. Where do I belong?

In How to work better,Professional Organisations,social networking on August 4, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , ,

This is a thinking aloud type of post. I’m sitting here, in-between finishing work and going off to lindy hop around the synagogues of the west end of London, and I’m thinking I really do need to network/do CPD better. The fact that I have not done so is of course 99.9% my fault. But the 0.1% that I feel I can blame on external circumstance is that I’m never quite sure of which group I belong in. We’ve had the role of CILIP debate and I don’t really want to re-hash it. But I do feel, and arguably incorrectly, that CILIP and, within CILIP, the HLG are kind of dominated by libraries, and I don’t really feel like a librarian. In fact I don’t feel at all like a librarian. I feel like an information, evidence-head sort of person. I know that in London there is London Links, though that’s really only for NHS staff. There was also a Monday night thing, back room of a pub sort of talk followed by chat. I went to one of those, organised by CILIP. Are they still running? They were quite good. I should have gone more often.

What I suppose I’m wondering is are there super groups I ought to be joining out there that will make me feel part of a happy clan, and/or is there a place for a new society, or social network, or meetup group etc, that is really around health and medical information, is evidence focussed, to have as its aim discussion towards working out how to keep up with the genuine information revolution that we find ourselves in the midst of? Does anyone use Ning these days? Would a new social networking platform capture the imagination? I doubt it.  Or should we just be more self reliant and get on with it; sign up to LinkedIn, find a mentor perhaps, read journals, go to the odd conference drink a few beers and get chatting to people – you know, the old fashioned way?

Maybe it’s simply a result of working as the sole information specialist in a small organisation… one always feels a little, well, isolated.

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Business support, on the job training and creative learning – HLG round up

In CILIP,Evidence-Based Librarianship,HLG 2010,How to work better,Information industry,Knowledge Management on July 25, 2010 by Hanna Tagged: , , , , ,

The 2010 HLG conference earlier this week offered an opportunity for health librarians and information professionals to share knowledge and experience in the positively sunny Salford Quays location. Alan F and I presented on this very blog and I also presented about work I do on clinical guidelines. This meant that with lots of parallel sessions I may have missed some great presentations and look forward to catching up on those I couldn’t see in person when they’re posted on the HLG website. I tried tweeting from the conference as well but couldn’t get a signal on my phone and the organisers did seem to miss a trick when they announced the hashtag (they switched from #HLGconf to #hlg2010 or maybe this was not organised, haven’t checked) but in the next breath said please turn off your phones…

So what did I take away from the conference? One inspiring session came from librarians supporting the information needs of managers in Leicester where Louise Hull talked about building on experience of a successful clinical librarian service and Debra Thornton in Blackpool had recruited Trevor Morris to provide a dedicated management librarian service. Trevor was so successsful he has now moved into a care pathway coordination role so the library is providing integral support to improving quality for patients. Stephen Ayre spoke about how his service in Nuneaton started offering literature support for clinical audits being carried out at his hospital and how picking up the phone and having a chat to people about their needs could increase new business for the library. He ended up collecting useful information for the clinical audit team about who was registering audits (nurses don’t have to do this for their statutory professional development so slip under the radar) and even becoming a first check of audits before they are registered proved that library services can be tailored to the information need for non-clinicians. I felt their case studies were inspiring as a way of raising your profile in an organisation even if other people might think ‘why is a librarian interested in audit or quality improvement’; in the right culture and with drive and determination you can push the boundaries of traditional library services. Even in my work place, a more corporate/research setting, we don’t specifically address the needs of managers who are our budget holders and paymasters. Perhaps it pays to think that managers have information needs that stretch the imagination in terms of not needing Medline searches but need to know what other organisations are doing , what the latest management technique du jour is and what is on the horizon in their domain of interest be it commissioning or implementation or planning…

Emily Hopkins set up a ‘library’ service in NHS North West and discovered that there was no need for a physical collection but that there were plenty of projects that could use a bit of information or records or knowledge management. Which linked quite nicely to a talk about strategic planning (or looking beyond things like PEST and SWOT analyses which are part of my vocabulary) as most of us don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch but work with a history which means our services need to be revised and developed as we reflect on where we are going. Sheila Corrall talking briefly about a range of other tools such as information ecology whereby you think about the different environments in which you work, strategic information alignment where we explicitly map our goals with that of our organisation and my favourite way the issues priorities matrix where you are trying to think about what to tackle first.

The plenary session featuring a professional development model based on training by doing (yay!) or on the job checklists of specific skills was brilliant for having an overview of how this was developed from Sara Clarke and a reflection on how this felt to progress through by my fellow grad trainee Zoe Thomas. Of course it couldn’t be called common sense or just recognising my argument that I learnt a limited amount about library work at library school and library schools are often a bit too academic and will inherantly always be so they plumped for ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ model which is just brilliant.

Tony Warne, Professor of Nursing at Salford University, offered us a talk on creative learning and and insight into the blog I’d like to write only I should be approached by the estate of James Joyce for breach of copyright. He actually titled his talk around Vannevar Bush’s 1945 paper ‘As we may think’ and meandered around library services being beyond bounds of physical space and the joys of open access (yes indeed I thought) and then spoiled this by talking about the interface between knowing and not knowing and perhaps his interest in psychanalysis took over…but going back to Bush who was thinking about the limits of organising knowledge in a logical way (albeit Andrew Booth had argued earlier in the conference that us info pros are happier when information is ordered in this way) he said humans think in terms of associations and how about we have a machine called a memex that captures this in some way, storing and organising information in a mechanized fashion, allowing more than one person to look at something at once. How far the internet and contemporary knowledge systems have achieved this is up for debate. I definitely agree with creative learning approaches which builds on Warne’s exposition that creativity and rational approaches to knowledge organisation are not mutually exclusive, almost by being open to different ways of thinking will encourage a broader landscape of a topic, building on the collective knowledge of something (and now I’m falling into the academic that turns me off but his talk was definitely intellectually stimulating!).

Lastly I caught two posters from SCIE the Social Care Institute for Excellence which looked at scoping searches and the fact there is no defined way of rapidly gathering evidence about a topic and how far to go as well as how to choose databases for searching in social care. This latter problem was approached in a systematic way whereby a range of databases were searched and unique references identified to map where overlap in coverage was found. Presumably a few more cases might need to be tested to see if there were any general trends. This is certainly a question we have when searching for medical literature and whether we should search every database we have access to or whether it is a peculiar fear of librarians that we’ll end up in a meeting where we missed a paper and all hell will break lose…

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Clinical queries & custom filters in PubMed

In Evidence-Based Medicine,How to work better,Web 2.0 & all that,Website reviews on July 7, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , , ,

PubMed has a new clinical queries page, apparently. To be honest I used the old one so infrequently that it could have changed six months ago and I never would have noticed. I tend to use PubMed for quick and not so dirty searches of the literature but if I’m doing a “real search” I use Ovid because of its slight value-add functionality plus it has our company’s access to Embase. Perhaps because of this access to Ovid I’ve never really paid all that much attention to the development of PubMed which, particularly over the last six months or so, seems to be whizzing ahead.

Anyway, the clinical queries page is quite fun. You put in your term and get results for “clinical study categories”, “systematic reviews” (not really so much “systematic reviews”, more “aggregate research” or “tertiary research” or similar), and “medical genetics”; you can then click “see all” for, well, seeing all, and there are drop down menus for whether you want therapy or etiology etc, and broad or narrow filters. It’s easiest just to play with it. I like the fact that at the bottom of each list if you click the word “filter” it will show you the actual search string being used to filter your results (for therapy or etiology, broad or narrow etc) and the sensitivity/specificity scores of  said filters (precision would be helpful too) along with the reference to the original paper in which the filters were based. All nice and transparent, and helpful if you wish to translate e.g. the prognosis filter to use in another database.

Of course though many of us want to add our own favourite filters. I always had a rough idea you could do this but had never bothered to really look into it, but it’s an absolute breeze. Fortunately I don’t have to describe how to add your own filters as Laika has already done such a good job of it (with screenshots and everything), and you can now add up to 15 of your own favourite search strings. Not sure what to add? Your friends at CRD/InterTASC will help you out. Once you get started you’ll  be having such a whale of a time that you’ll be looking for excuses to do quick and, as mentioned before, not so very dirty searches in PubMed for all and sundry – dragging people in from the corridor – that sort of stuff. I’m sure you’ve been doing this for years, but it’s all new to me.

I’m really beginning to like PubMed. A big thank you to the US taxpayer.