Health and Social Care Information: the role of the Internet and the pharmacist

November 30, 2007

Health and Social Care Information: A review of provision in the North East is a research report written by Suzanne Lockyer and Elizabeth Blenkinsopp. The authors state “There are currently many drivers for change in the provision of health and social care information to the public” and mention that “the aims of this review were to collect examples of good practice from North East and to propose a model for co-ordinated and sustainable provision (of information)”

To achieve their aims they have carried out an extensive literature review, which I would recommend. This review is grouped into four brad themes:

  • Politics and Funding
  • Public perception of health and social care information
  • Providers
  • Delivery (technology and methods)

After this revision, which was undertaken to provide background information for the study, three different methodologies have been used and described in detail:

  • Questionnaires (Patient Advice and Liaison Service, social care and public libraries).
  • Focus group (with key providers from the three sectors) which
  • Telephone interviews (with key national and regional stakeholders from the three sectors).

Although the reading of the whole project is strongly recommend, just the conclusions are reproduced below:

There is evidence of a wide range of provision, with no shortage of information available. There are enthusiastic and professional providers in all sectors. However, collaboration is needed to maximise the individual skills apparent in the three sectors.

Libraries emerge as having great potential. They are viewed by both the public and other providers as a neutral space and as a recognised ‘place’ for information. However, there is also potential to extend their role and this may be more challenging.

Overall, four barriers were identified by the research:

  • Information Professionals lack awareness of available resources – both within and between organisations.
  • There is duplication of effort and information overload by Information Professionals.
  • There is a need to raise public awareness of where to go for information. This also relates to the placing of information; many respondents to the questionnaire noted the value of placing information in ‘non-health/social service’ locations.
  • There is a current lack of staff training across all three sectors (Health, Social Services and Public Libraries) in information skills, people skills and dealing with queries outside own profession.

Let me further add that I’m in totally agreement with the recommendations made by the research team. However I would like to remark the importance of three more points.

Firstly, hospital and community pharmacists should be taken into account in the public health care system. It is important to bear in mind that they are more available to the citizens than any other health professional; they have sufficient knowledge to help citizens to manage their health; they generally have enough communication skills and they have incentives to mantein a good relationship with their clients.

Secondly, the Internet is not just a content platform. It is necessary to take advantage of the Internet as an interactive space where social arrangements are possible. That means on the one hand collaboration and coordination among the different actors and initiatives -on line, off line, multi channel-, and on the other hand the expectations of centralization and the experience of decentralization should be managed.

And last but not least. The government has a key role as a node in the network which provides the regulatory and legal framework and develops information health policies to the whole society.