Overcoming barriers to finding clinical information

What are the two greatest barriers to information-seeking by physicians? They are 1) time constraints and 2) doubt about finding answers—whether answers exist or whether the seeker is skilled enough to find the answers1. These barriers are in tension with physicians’ need and desire to consistently and astutely translate medical knowledge into practice and improve patient care. In fact, those who actively seek clinical information have higher career achievements and are more likely to use evidence-based medicine in everyday clinical practice as demonstrated in a 2015 study of medical residents' information-seeking behaviour2.

Fast and expertly conducted literature searches by College librarians can be a practical, career-long solution to overcoming information-seeking barriers for practising physicians. Librarians have knowledge of available information sources and the strengths and limitations of each, and have expertise in designing strategies that filter for relevant and valid literature specific to the research question. Results are provided according to the requestor's deadline as much as is feasible with clinically relevant rush questions given top priority for rapid delivery. Typically, search results are provided in the form of a selected bibliography with links to library-subscribed online articles, and several full text articles are generally included to help physicians begin reviewing key information quickly. 

British Columbia physicians request approximately 1,500 in-depth literature searches from the College library yearly. The nature of the queries runs the gamut from quick updates on diagnosis and management of common ailments, to complex investigations into unusual aspects of disease, policy, or administration.

A few recent examples are:

  • Can survivors of extreme prematurity with bronchopulmonary dysplasia safely scuba dive?
  • Is there a difference between forewater and hindwater in premature rupture of membranes?
  • What are the risks and benefits of aggressive blood pressure lowering therapy in patients with acute intracerebral hemorrhage?
  • Is vertigo associated with whiplash injury/mild traumatic brain injury?
  • Are cocaine vaccine or cocaine esterases effective as therapy for cocaine-related disorders?

Continuing professional development credit is available for use of material arising from librarian-mediated searches including Step 2 of a PEARLS exercise for College of Family Physicians of Canada members and as support for Personal Learning Projects for Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada members.

Registrants with library privileges are welcome to contact the library's research service and there is no limit to the number of queries that can be posed. 

College Library
Email: medlib@cpsbc.ca
Phone: 604-733-6671
Fax: 604-737-8582
Online request forms: https://www.cpsbc.ca/library/services-hours/make-request


  1. Del Fiol, G., T. E. Workman and P. N. Gorman. Clinical questions raised by clinicians at the point of care: a systematic review. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 May;174(5):710-8.
  1. Oussalah A, Fournier JP, Guéant JL, Braun M. Information-seeking behavior during residency is associated with quality of theoretical learning, academic career achievements, and evidence-based medical practice: a strobe-compliant article. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Feb;94(6):e535.