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“Big Data in Healthcare: Exploring Emerging Roles” Guest Essay

Posted by on September 26th, 2018 Posted in: Data Science
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One of the more popular courses we at the NNLM offer is called “Big Data in Healthcare: Exploring Emerging Roles“.  This nation-wide course “explains the role big data plays in clinical patient outcomes, explains current/potential roles in which librarians are supporting big data initiatives, and illustrates the fundamentals of big data from a systems perspective”.  The assignments in the course build over the nine weeks until the participants can use them as the basis for a final essay.  The essays are really wonderful thought-pieces both about how librarians can enter the big data world, and about how the participants themselves see that world differently after having taken the course.

And then we in the NNLM regions post the essays from those in our regions who wrote them!  In our most recent course offering there were no participants from the Pacific Northwest Region, but Luz Crespo, who works at the Catawba Valley Health System/North West AHEC Library, in the Southeastern Atlantic region, has graciously allowed us to post her final essay here.   Enjoy!

“Big Data and the Role for Health Science Librarians” by Luz Crespo

As health science librarians get involved with big data, they develop the skills that can assist end-users. Librarians who learn about the processes of big data can evaluate how data originate, how the amount of data is constantly being produced for larger capacities, and generally how it works. It is interesting to learn that data can be accessed from various resources. Librarians learning about big data can comprehend how the information is accessed, obtained, accumulated and the formats that initiate this process. For example, clinicians may insert a wide variety of data that may include patient demographics, which then can be accessed in the patient’s electronic health record (the digital format versus paper documentation). Health professionals are able to access the patient information quickly and find health diagnoses and health documentation; such as the patient’s medical history, current conditions, and lab results to determine the patient’s quality of care.

Where I work, the Electronic Health Record (EHR) is the system that is used within the facility. Though I do not have access to this software, I am confident that as technology continues to improve,  medical librarians who are knowledgeable with these types of software can achieve the skills to communicate, connect and educate healthcare professionals that need assistance within the healthcare system. The EHR is used strictly for healthcare professionals.. Earlier in this course, it was interesting to learn that the Metro Health System was one of the first to utilize the EHR. I’m not sure how medical librarians would have access to the EHR since the HIPAA policy is established to protect the patient information.

Dr. Brennan’s presentation on the BD2K engages individuals to comprehend that data sciences, providing the tools and training, can allow individuals the awareness to communicate and learn the techniques that permits them to better serve others in locating information, which can make a difference, for example, for, researchers who are needing assistance in this area. I agree with Tara Douglas-Williams on the importance of nurses actively contributing in big data initiatives across various health care systems. She expressed how Dr. Brennan is an advocate in assisting librarians in building data science relationships. There is an old saying, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” (Aristotle, from The Nicomachean Ethics). This illustrates that as information professionals or librarians it is important to adapt and learn the skills that provide the tools that can assist others with their life-long learning.

In my opinion, health sciences librarians that fulfill the goal to gain knowledge and gather the information that is needed to support researchers and healthcare professionals can succeed in meeting the needs of the end-users and surrounding community. Overall, learning about big data  allowed me to see the big picture and how it can benefit me as a new librarian, and how I can share what I have learned with others.

Image of the author ABOUT Ann Glusker

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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