Oklahoma’s notoriously poor health outcomes are being addressed by a number of entities. One of the prominent fighters of the battle is the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Clinic.
It’s just dedicated the latest in an effort to improve Oklahoma’s health, this time by improving health literacy, through a new consumer health library, open in the clinic.
The head of the Morningcrest Healthcare Foundation in Tulsa, which funded the Morningcrest Health Library at the Schusterman Clinic, tells a story about looking for medical information.
“A few years ago,” says Foundation Director Greg Foland, “I had the opportunity to research a medical condition that was of interest to me.”
“I did an Internet search that resulted in 1.3 million results,” he said.
He says that when researching conditions and medical issues, patients should have more reliable resources than the first dozen Google results. That’s where a resource like the Health Library comes in.
“When you look the health of a population,” says OU-Tulsa President Dr. Gerry Clancy, “and you look at, what are some of the things that are holding that population back as far as being very healthy, there are certain individuals that are not able to understand what it takes to be healthy.”
He says, the goal is to help patients better navigate the sometimes baffling process of healthcare, from a diagnosis, to following through with a treatment plan.
“This clinic that we put together, has a library within the clinic,” Clancy said. “That library is staffed with experts in getting individuals information about their own health.
One of those experts is Ruth Neal: the new full time medical librarian at Morningcrest.
“We have books to check out, so we have a small collection,” Neal says. “Most of this is consumer health related information, so that people can check it out while they’re here, take it to their appointment with them if they want, or take it home until their next appointment, if they want to check it out.”
She says there are books and activities for kids as well, including leap pads with health-related apps.
“Obviously a lot of our information is now on computers,” she says, “so we have three computer work stations for people to look things up on their health issues.”
So, if you’re a patient at the clinic, or you’re at OU-Tulsa with someone who has an appointment, you can use the library while you’re waiting.
But the library serves another purpose, as well. Just as a doctor might refer a patient to the lab, or to imaging, he or she can also refer a patient to the library.
“Physicians can write a prescription to the clinic, for an individual to come down and work with the librarian,” Dr. Clancy says, “and the librarian will work at that individual’s level of understanding as far as, ‘what do I have to do next to be healthy, to understand this disease, and to conquer that disease.’”
He says, Oklahoma is 49th in the number of physicians per capita. That means the few doctors we have, are pressed for time.
So on the day of your appointment, you may only have 15 minutes with your physician, which may mean you aren’t getting all the information you want about your care.
“That’s why this clinic is so helpful,” Clancy said, “because you can slow down, and after you’ve been with the doctor, take your time and really absorb what that doc has said, through a level of understanding, with a guide, who’s our librarian, to help you through it.”
Currently, OU-Tulsa’s is the only health library of its kind in Oklahoma.
Health literacy, as it’s called, is one of many predictors of health outcomes, so the idea behind the public health library is that individuals, armed with better information, will see their outcomes improve.
Neal says the Morningcrest library, with both consumer health information, as well as all of the academic resources of OU-Tulsa’s Schusterman library, is up to the task.
“There’s always someone here to help you with your health questions,” Neal says. “You can get a million answers from Google, but you get the right one from a librarian.”