Thursday, July 9, 2009

Challenge: Knowledge translation

Since the CHLA conference I've been thinking a lot about knowledge translation (KT) and what it means to me and for me i.e. how I understand the concept and how I can put it into practise.

KT came up a lot in the presentations at the conference and on the Tue before I left an entire panel was devoted to discussing it. Three panelists, Orvie Dingwall, MLIS Librarian and Project Manager CPSI-ICSP ( Presentation, Handout), Sara Kreindler, DPhil Winnipeg Regional Health Authority - Research & Evaluation Unit, and Elizabeth Hydesmith, MSc Senior Project Manager NCCID, discussed KT in their organizations (can I take a moment to say kudos to CHLA for making almost all papers and posters immediately available on their website? It would be great if MLA did the same*). While the panel was very interesting it left me wondering what KT means in a hospital library or consumer health resource setting. Dr. Thomas Kerr also mentioned KT in his presentation, Bridging the Gap between Evidence, Policy and Public Opinion: Lessons from the Scientific Evaluation of Vancouver's Supervised Injection Site, and it was he who gave me an idea. More in this later...

It hasn't been easy to find a "plain language" explanation of what KT actually is (CIHR, IDRC) (WHO's isn't bad) which is kind of ironic. I'm not ashamed to admit that KT is term that I was not familiar with before the conference. In my last semester at library school, which I completed at McGill, I was briefly introduced to another "K" term, Knowledge Management or KM, but not to KT. Neither came up in my studies at Dalhousie. I won't try to speculate as to why and don't feel that I was cheated out of anything since I was given the tools to understand the concepts. I think catchphrases and buzzwords are useful, up to a point. Even scholars of KT aknowledge there is some confusion about KT and related terms such as knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange etc. (Lost in translation: Time for a map?, IDRC). I honestly couldn't have stood the discussion that would have ensued, considering how much time we spent on the data vs information vs knowledge debate (only slightly less annoying than the art vs craft debate I suffered through at NSCAD).

The important thing is to own a concept, to understand it on a deep enough level that it becomes part of how you behave and your decision-making process, regardless of what word(s) you use to describe it. This is the very process KT is concerned with and jargon can interfere, as acknowledged by the existance of KT opportunity 3, identified by CIHR, which urges the use of "plain language."

Now we are getting to the "in" that I was looking for. Consumer health information is all about "plain language" and bridging what WHO calls the "know-do" gap. So providing patients and families with easy-to-read health information falls within the KT realm. But there has to be more to it than that since I work with health professionals as well as consumers. KT opportunities 4 and 5 allow me to take things a bit further.

This is in fact a solution to a problem I've been mulling over for some time. Since I have been working in the teaching rooms at the Herzl, and I don't have precedent for my service (except one, now defunct), I wanted to have some way, other than just saying so, to show the residents and their supervisors that what I do is evidence-based and not just an idea I came up with and was able to convince a few doctors was a good idea.

It was clear to me that I could not expect anyone to read the needs assessment proposal I wrote several years ago which included an extensive lit review of such concepts as health literacy, shared-decision-making, the doctor patient diad, patient empowerment etc, and how the participation of a librarian and the provision of consumer health information can positively impact all of the above. Nor could I expect them to study the detailed report on the results of that needs assessment.

I needed a much simpler and quicker way. Dr. Kerr mentioned having used "plain language summaries of SIF research" called Insight into Insite. It occurred to me that I could do something similar, one page evidence-summaries on a few relevant topics. Obviously I am not communicating the findings of my own research, but there is research to support what I do, research that can serve to encourage use of my service. Behold the first one of what I hope to be a series: Health information in multiple languages at Herzl. Where do "multidirectional communications and ongoing collaborations among relevant parties, interdisciplinary process etc" come in you might ask? Well, I am using research generated by both librarians and health professionals, and before sending my little summary out I showed it to one of the physicians I work with the most, who suggested an article I might add to it.

At some point I would like to expand to the rest of the hospital, and put out evidence summaries under the library umbrella as well.

*A few hours after writing this post I received my MLA Focus which announced that "full video/audio with synchronized slides of MLA plenary sessions"are now available to members only via the website.


Giovanna Badia said...

Hi Francesca,

Check out the latest issue of "Medical Reference Services Quarterly." There is an article about KM, which may be of interest to you.


FF said...
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