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NICE (UK) launches new online evidence service to improve health and patient care

April 29, 2009

The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) today (30 April) launches a new online service, NHS Evidence, which will provide comprehensive, organised information to healthcare professionals to improve both health and patient care. An Editorial and Comment, both published Online First and in an upcoming edition of the Lancet, discuss how this service could revolutionise the world of medical information.

The Comment is written by NICE's Deputy Chief Executive Gillian C Leng, who will also be the chief operating officer for NHS Evidence. Dr Leng says: "Barriers to seeking information appear to be lack of time, the large amount of material to search, forgetfulness, and an expectation that there will be no answer. This problem--too much information in too many different places--is exactly what NHS Evidence is designed to address. Through a fast efficient web-based search facility, NHS Evidence will help users access a wide range of information, by sorting, sifting, and prioritising the best and most relevant. To ensure the right information is available, NHS Evidence also has a commissioning function, to ensure any knowledge gaps are filled, and to provide central purchasing of online journals for staff in the National Health Service (NHS) in England."

NHS Evidence will exclude only sources of information likely be significantly biased. To effectively sort, sift and prioritise the large volume, NHS will use three approaches: accreditation of guidance producers; a monthly and annual review of new evidence across a range of topics; and effective searching and ranking systems. Dr Leng says: "For most health professionals who do not have time to review all relevant new publications, a facility to help highlight important new information is essential. This issue particularly affects health care, in which the amount of biomedical research information doubles every 20 years... NHS Evidence will provide a regular alert system through RSS feeds, but will also put new material in context for the user. The context is important because, from NICE's experience of updating clinical guidelines, new evidence is much more likely to add weight to the existing evidence base, rather than challenging or overturning current practice." She adds: "The principle objective of the NHS Evidence search function is to present the user with the most relevant results for their search question on the first page."

Dr Leng discusses that NHS Evidence will be launched into a world in which online access to information is increasingly popular. Research on doctors' use of information shows that, although there is still reliance on paper copies and the opinion of colleagues, use of electronic media is increasing as it becomes faster and easier. Doctors in particular are showing a strong and increasing use of active online searching in journals and Databases. Dr Leng adds: "NHS Evidence will also support a range of activities designed to encourage a change in practice, in addition to providing ready access to information online. NHS Evidence will seek to promote the use of evidence across health and social care, for example by encouraging the use of evidence through incentive systems, such as appraisal systems for doctors."

She concludes: "Future releases of NHS Evidence will provide access to practical tools and examples of best practice, as well as allowing users to personalise the online portal, to facilitate specific updating mechanisms and to tailor the effectiveness of searching. To ensure NHS Evidence remains useful in a rapidly changing online world, regular feedback from users will be essential to ensure the service is subject to regular review and continuous improvement."

The accompanying Editorial concludes: "The project team is to be applauded for its clear-sighted and thorough approach to generating such a long-overdue source of credible advice. Lack of time, inclination, and knowledge of where to start reduce the likelihood that a health-care professional will look for guidance, and the concept of NHS Evidence certainly addresses the issues of time and place. What is needed in addition is an equally broad-reaching encouragement and awareness campaign to help persuade the proverbial horse, having been provided with the water, to drink it."
For Dr Gillian C Leng, Deputy Chief Executive, NICE, and Chief Operating Officer, NHS Evidence, NICE, London please contact Aidan Vaughan, Associate Director - Communications, NHS Evidence T) +44 (0) 207 045 2079 E)

Lancet Press Office T) +44 (0) 20 7424 4949 E)

For full Comment and Editorial, see:


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