Background: The "Just-in-time Information" (JIT) librarian consultation service was designed to provide rapid information to answer primary care clinical questions during patient hours. This study evaluated whether information provided by librarians to answer clinical questions positively impacted time, decision-making, cost savings and satisfaction.
Methods and finding: A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted between October 2005 and April 2006. A total of 1,889 questions were sent to the service by 88 participants. The object of the randomization was a clinical question. Each participant had clinical questions randomly allocated to both intervention (librarian information) and control (no librarian information) groups. Participants were trained to send clinical questions via a hand-held device. The impact of the information provided by the service (or not provided by the service), additional resources and time required for both groups was assessed using a survey sent 24 hours after a question was submitted. The average time for JIT librarians to respond to all questions was 13.68 minutes/question (95% CI, 13.38 to 13.98). The average time for participants to respond their control questions was 20.29 minutes/question (95% CI, 18.72 to 21.86). Using an impact assessment scale rating cognitive impact, participants rated 62.9% of information provided to intervention group questions as having a highly positive cognitive impact. They rated 14.8% of their own answers to control question as having a highly positive cognitive impact, 44.9% has having a negative cognitive impact, and 24.8% with no cognitive impact at all. In an exit survey measuring satisfaction, 86% (62/72 responses) of participants scored the service as having a positive impact on care and 72% (52/72) indicated that they would use the service frequently if it were continued.
Conclusions: In this study, providing timely information to clinical questions had a highly positive impact on decision-making and a high approval rating from participants. Using a librarian to respond to clinical questions may allow primary care professionals to have more time in their day, thus potentially increasing patient access to care. Such services may reduce costs through decreasing the need for referrals, further tests, and other courses of action.
Trial registration: Controlled-Trials.com ISRCTN96823810.