Medical E-Reference: A Benchmark for E-Reference Publishing in Other Disciplines

Medical E-Reference: A Benchmark for E-Reference Publishing in Other Disciplines

Terese DeSimio (Wright State University, USA) and Ximena Chrisagis (Wright State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-308-9.ch011


Electronic medical information retrieval systems and reference sources were some of the first discipline-specific e-resources to be developed, due to physicians’ need to access the most current and relevant clinical information as quickly as possible. Many medical publishers and information aggregators have been incorporating the features their users demand for years. Thus, medical e-reference publishing could serve as a benchmark for e-reference publishing in other fields. Yet medical e-reference is not without its challenges. Today’s physicians and medical students expect immediate and user-friendly electronic access to media rich and value added clinical references, particularly via their mobile devices. Publishers, librarians, and network administrators will need to ensure that mobile information sources users demand are discoverable and easy to access and use, even in healthcare environments where increased data security is necessary.
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The NLM published the first volume of Index Medicus: A Monthly Classified Record of the Current Medical Literature of the World in 1879. This index included books, medical articles, reports, and other literature (Miles & National Library of Medicine, 1982). NLM set high standards for information retrieval systems and vocabulary control in 1964 when it developed MEDLARS (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System), which was based on Index Medicus. This database was too large for the remote access by computer systems in 1970 (McCarn, 1970), but by 1971, NLM had developed the first available online IRS, MEDLARS ON-LINE or MEDLINE, by using existing U.S. Department of Defense computer programs. DIALOG, the first well known, multidiscipline, and searchable database, was developed after MEDLINE in 1972 (Palmer, 1987). The NLM’s impact can even be seen in current copyright practices. The 1976 Fair Use sections of the copyright law developed as a result of lengthy litigation between NLM and publishers who objected to NLM’s photocopying practices (Miles & National Library of Medicine, 1982). During the 1980s, the NLM benefitted by having a director who was simultaneously the director of NLM and the National Coordination Office for High Performance Computing and Communications (Groen, 2007). Under this director’s leadership, NLM developed a computer program called Grateful Med, which was the precursor to PubMed (Hersh, 2003). PubMed became freely available on the Internet in 1997 and currently includes the full text to over 100 medical e-books (U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2010).

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