A 1991 scientific study conducted in fifteen hospitals in the Rochester, NY, area revealed that 80 percent of 208 participating physicians said they handled some aspect of their patient's care differently as a result of information provided by their hospital library [1]. Nearly all (96.5%) of the physicians said that information provided by their hospital librarians contributed to better-informed clinical decisions [2].

Overall, physicians rated the information provided by the hospital library more highly than that provided by diagnostic imaging, lab tests, or discussions with colleagues [3]. These findings confirm a previous study of physicians in Chicago, in which 95 percent of the respondents said that information from the library contributed to higher quality care for their patients [4].

Physicians reported the following changes in specific aspects of patient care as a result of the information provided by the library [5]:

  • 29.3 percent reported changing diagnosis
  • 50.5 percent reported changing choice of tests
  • 45.2 percent reported changing choice of drugs
  • 19.2 percent reported reducing length of hospital stay
  • 71.6 percent reported changing advice given to patients

Physicians also said that the information provided by the library helped them avoid the following in the patients they treated [6]:

  • 19.2 percent reported avoiding patient mortality
  • 8.2 percent reported avoiding hospital-acquired infection
  • 21.2 percent reported avoiding surgery
  • 45.1 percent reported avoiding additional tests or procedures
  • 28.3 percent reported avoiding additional outpatient visits

Importance to the Hospital

Immediate access to up-to-date patient care information is essential for informed clinical and management decision-making. Qualified health science librarians, aided by computer technology, can provide a broader range of information and locate needed information more quickly than other hospital employees or medical professionals doing the research on their own

Eighty-five percent of the physicians in the Rochester study reported that the information provided by their librarians saved them time, and 93% reported that the information provided them with new knowledge, with resulting cost savings and improved patient care for their institutions [7].


  1. Joynt RJ, Marshall JG, McClure LW. Financial threats to hospital libraries. JAMA 1991 Sep 4;266(9):1220-1.
  2. Marshall JG. The impact of the hospital library on clinical decision making: the Rochester study. Bull Med Lib Assoc 1992 Apr;80(2):169-78.
  3. Marshall, op. cit.
  4. King DN. Contribution of hospital library services: a study. Bull Med Lib Assoc 1987 Oct;75(4):296-9.
  5. Joynt, op. cit.
  6. Marshall, op. cit.
  7. Marshall, op. cit.

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