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Librarians and Physician Assistants: Natural Partners

October is an important month! Medical Librarians Month is during October, and National Physician Assistant Week is October 6-12. Librarians and Physician Assistants (PAs) are natural partners to address patient education and health information literacy.

Health information literacy is an important component of patient care. Included as an objective in the Healthy People 2010 report, “Understanding and Improving Health”, it has been shown to be a strong influence in health outcomes. As health care becomes more expensive, poor health information literacy can increase heath care costs even further as people with low health information literacy are more at risk.

Physician Assistants, licensed to practice medicine in partnership with a physician, are also patient educators and often have more time to spend in the exam room than their physician counterparts. PA numbers are growing to address a health care shortage, and in 2008 there were 257 million patient visits made to PAs.

Medical librarians can help to address health information literacy by providing access to health information materials suited to all levels of understanding through resources such as MedlinePlus  and other tools from the National Library of Medicine . Successful outreach is often characterized by partnerships, and Physician Assistants are in a unique position to partner with librarians to improve health information literacy.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the National Library of Medicine have begun a new collaboration to use InfoRX, an “information prescription” pad designed to resemble medication prescription pads. The pad is a user friendly way to direct patients to authoritative sources of information online, via their home or public access computer.

Under the auspices of the Medical Library Association, a tutorial for health care providers, Prescription for Information: Addressing Health Information Literacy, has also been developed. The web-based tutorial covers sources of information for health care consumers and provides information on the InfoRX Project as one of several strategies to address health information literacy. Since the AAPA has also identified health information literacy as a priority, PAs are a natural audience for this information. Pilot testing has started with PAs in Washington State to give feedback on the tutorial and will continue in larger numbers as the tutorial is revised.

Watch the NN/LM PNR web site for an announcement of funding for an outreach project involving medical librarians and physician assistants. We are pleased to be offering an opportunity for these two audiences to work together to improve health information literacy in our region!

2 Responses to “Librarians and Physician Assistants: Natural Partners”

  1. Jim Anderson Says:

    Thank you for mentioning physician assistants! We are excited about the opportunities to partner with librarians, and look forward to future “conspiring” for improved patient care.

  2. Emily Glenn Says:

    If you are interested in the history of the PA profession, there’s a great exhibit here:, maintained by the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History in collaboration with Duke U.