Visit the main HIFA website:

Challenges of finding practical healthcare information on the internet (9)

HIFA Quotation: 

[Whenever one contemplates any new health information initiative, I think it is always useful to explore some basic questions:]

VS: First I would mention - that most of these questions (or similar ones) are what librarians were trained to ask themselves or their library users at what were called 'reference interviews'. We are speaking in the 'information sciences' space and some of these questions have a large 'spectrum' of answers. According to me, today is the time when we badly need to recognize the need for high calibre well trained librarians more than ever before!

[ What *are* their current information needs?]

VS: Very often the seekers themselves cannot spell out their needs, for various reasons. The toughest reason is that they themselves do not know that answers may exist, or that they can ask questions about how they feel. Typical examples are 'post partum depression' - a condition which many women feel are unique to them and it never crosses their mind that it is something they can seek help about. Recently a doctor gave me an example of a man who complained of abdominal pain every night. Her father - also a doctor, after examining him asked him some questions and figured that the man had erectile dysfunction. After admitting this, his complaint of abdominal pain vanished pretty soon, simply because he was able to talk about it and knew that it was something that doctors could do something about!

[What methods do they currently use to address these needs?]

VS: I ask people this question very often and the answer is mostly 'Google' or 'Asking others'...

[How might this gap be closed, and by whom?]

VS: Creation of more of Evidence summaries / Basic knowledge summaries. I also believe the time is ripe for creating a young breed of information professionals who undergo the basics of a health sciences degree, followed by an advanced Information Sciences degree. These people should be at a higher level than the current professionals called "informationists" who have set the foundation for such an activity (in some of the developed nations). They can work in institutions with a health care team, or even be part of a national online system, where people could log in and take their professional help


Date of HIFA message: 
Monday, June 23, 2014
Author Name: 
Vasumathi Sriganesh
Author Organisational Type: 
DGroup URL
Links to the full text of the message and thread in the Dgroups archive; accessible only to HIFA members - join HIFA here (free); request full text by email to
Author profile: 

HIFA profile: Vasumathi Sriganesh was a medical librarian in the 1990s. In the year 2007 she set up a Not-for-profit Trust, which she has named QMed Knowledge Foundation. Along with her colleagues in QMed she regularly conducts workshops in literature searching and reference management, as these skills have never been prioritized in medical education in India. She is also a regular faculty on these topics, in Research Methodology workshops all over the country. She hopes that the Foundation's activity will help the current generation of students value the need for an effective search as a component of the practice of Evidence Based Medicine. In early 2014, she has started delivering lectures to consumer groups on 'How to search online for reliable health information'. She also works with INFORMER (a student body) and the South Asian Cochrane Centre, whenever there are opportunities to help. Vasumathi is a member of  the HIFA 2013-15 Challenge Group, which promotes communication, understanding and advocacy among HIFA participants and beyond, to move progressively towards our shared vision: “Every prescriber and user of medicines will have access to reliable information on medicines to protect their own health and the health of others”. 

Author Country: 
Author Professional Status: 
Name of person(s) who selected this HIFA Quotation: