In 1998, the British Government's Information and Technology Strategy for the National Health Service (NHS), called Information for Health, announced the establishment of a National Electronic Library for Health (NeLH). The concept was defined by the NHS Executive, that has expressed the commitment to make the Primary Care information available from autumn 1999. This Primary Care arm of the NeLH currently is being developed at St George's Hospital Medical School under the leadership of Muir Gray and Simon de Lusignan. It will form one of the principle branches of the NeLH. The aim of the joint NeLH/GPnet project is to improve patient care by facilitating multi-professional involvement in clinical governance by the provision of readily accessible knowledge and know how.
The National Electronic Library for Health has to be launched in this year's spring as part of a five year development programme. It is based on four essential principles, which are defined as the concern to provide high quality of knowledge as opposed to huge quantity of information; to supply knowledge as well as the skills to manage and apply that knowledge; to be equally accessible to patients and clinicians, the public and managers; and to create and sustain communities of users. This four-winged ambition will be put into practice by generating a very popular Evidence Based Medicine focus on NHSnet. The project team will offer a single gateway which meets the information needs of Primary Care, through the design of site sections, readily matching with the searching strategies of Primary Care professionals, and with rapid access to popular information.
The NeLH will contain search engines to access data from a wide variety of sources. All benefits of the existing major Information Technology projects within the NHS will be incorporated into the NeLH which will also actively promote the dissemination of research findings. The developers will create transparent criteria for the selection of sites that occupy the most prominent positions within the NeLH, in order to generate a site which is both attractive and viable for medical publishers. An open Transmission Control Protocol & Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) will be defined as well. In addition, the team wants to guarantee sufficient bandwidth and processing power to meet the volume of requests as well as address mechanisms for the training requirements of individuals.
"Hot keys" will be developed to allow direct linkage from items in the users clinical system to the library. All Primary Health Care Team (PHCT) members should have access to the NeLH-PC. The next phase of the strategy will deal with the possibility for the clinicians to order tests and the general practitioners to request outpatient appointments electronically. As a result, knowledge from the NeLH has to be linked to these reports and requests, as to provide instantaneous knowledge. The NeLH will engage a large range of users via two sets of virtual branch libraries, one set for the clinicians and patients, the other for those who make decisions about groups of patients or populations. Initiatives to develop virtual branch libraries within the NeLH framework are underway. They are concentrated on primary care, national service frameworks, and areas where there is already some activity, such as the National Electronic Library for Health Informatics.
The home page of the NeLH will have the design of an atrium to offer help to people who wish to use it. The idea is to involve all the relevant professional associations and organizations, many of whom already have a library at their headquarters. Further, the NeLH will be divided into four main floors, each of which will be developed as a partnership. For the patient information floor, the major resource will be a gateway to high quality patient info on the Internet. In this way, CHIQ as the Centre for Health Information Quality will be responsible for applying quality filters to provide explicit information on quality standards of the information presented. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence is responsible for the establishment of clinical guidelines and systems. In this role, NICE will manage the know-how floor.
The third floor is dedicated to knowledge and will provide access to electronic journals and books for registered users. It is designed in co-operation with the health care library community. The knowledge management floor will consist of educational material relating to activities and resources, which deal with the production, distribution, appraisal, implementation and storing of knowledge for those people, using the library to build their own E-library or develop their own skills or organization. The project team is still in search for associate members to assist in the development of the NeLH with the aim of delivering high quality information to the consulting room desktop. If you are interested to join the team, please don't hesitate to visit the Web site of the National Electronic Library for Health for further details and information.