Prepared by Alan Fricker, Head of Clinical Libraries & Service Development, King’s College London

The paper for discussion: Daei, A., Soleymani, M.R., Ashrafi-rizi, H., Kelishadi, R. and Zargham‑Boroujeni, A. (2021), Personal, technical and organisational factors affect whether physicians seek answers to clinical questions during patient care: a literature review. Health Info Libr J, 38: 81-96. (Free to read for 90 days courtesy Wiley)


This review article considers the facilitators for information seeking by physicians. I liked this positive approach as we can often be focussed on the barriers to seeking information.

Literature was retrieved across a range of databases with search strategies shared. There are a few issues with the searches with a lack of subject headings and some odd sources (Proquest? Various publisher sites? no LIS databases explicitly mentioned). Despite this the search terms used retrieved a considerable volume of literature and the triage and review of these is detailed. Dawes and Sampson (2003) is identified as a key paper and they exclude anything before 2002 on that basis – that review covers both barriers and facilitators. Twenty years is a long while ago in internet terms so probably due a refresh!

The paper does still include the barriers to information seeking (time, skills, knowledge, overload etc) with plenty of literature to follow up on if desired.

The decision is taken to limit to studies on physicians – even excluding various other types of Doctors. I can see the merit of not including all different healthcare practitioners given difference in professional models but this feels excessively narrow.

Facilitators were divided into:

  • personal factors (internet skills, time, interest, knowledge of where to start etc)
  • technical factors (ease of use, clear navigation, smart features etc)
  • organisational factors (internet to hand, training received, culture etc)

Quantitative measures of frequency are offered but I am unsure this offers more than a clearer thematic analysis might have done.

Mention of Info Buttons provoked half memories of a tool of that type from the National Electronic Library for Health though I have failed to turn up evidence of it.

The paper recognises some of the limitations and information seeking facilitators seems a fruitful direction for research.

So What?

No UK papers made it through the triage but papers other wise cover a global spectrum – a shame not to see something in a UK setting.

The discussion has interesting pointers to the role of librarians in improving some of the technical and organisational factors. This can be through the decisions we make in our systems – making them more comprehensible, structuring results to aid interpretation, acquiring the right resources and making it easy to get into them. We can also help set the culture in an organisation around the use of evidence and provide valuable support for people building their skills / knowledge.

Keeping the things that will help firmly in mind is a good way to address some of the challenges we know operate in information seeking. They can be morein our control than spome of the barriers.

Now What?

The authors define information seeking as Information needs plus systems – I thought this was quite neat and am curious about other definitions of information seeking.

The conclusion for practice seems to me to be – get them there and make it worth the trip.

Have you addressed facilitators of information seeking in your services? Modified language? Reduced a barrier?