A project that gives health professionals late-night access to librarians’expertise by using an instant messaging (IM) link between the UK and Australia has won a prestigious International Information Industry Award.

‘Chasing the Sun’, a partnership between South West Information for Clinican Effectiveness (SWICE) and South Australian Health Services Libraries’ Consortium (SAHSLC), allows clinicians in one country with urgent questions about patient care to page an online librarian in the other at times of the night when the library would normally be shut.

UK users include Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust, Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust, and others from the South West. Additional representation on the project is from the Royal Free Hospital, London.

Sally Hernando, head of the Knowledge Resources Development Unit at NHS South West Workforce Development Confederations, told E-Health Insider: "The ‘Chasing the Sun’ project was conceived by me and a group of Australian librarians from Adelaide.

“I received a Health Libraries Group travel award in 2001 to go to Australia to investigate initiatives in information provision to rural health professionals, and we dreamed up the initiative as a way to work towards addressing the problem of 24/7 support. We got the idea from support models currently in place in industry, namely the airline industry."

“The Chasing the Sun service enables clinicians to have access to experienced professional assistance using electronic library and information resources after-hours,” said Mary Peterson, International Project Co-ordinator, from the Royal Adelade Hospital in Australia. “It will enable them to make bettter use of the clinical decision support tools available to them to help them in their decision making and should therefore result in improved quality health care."

The IM software used, QuestionPoint, was chosen because it gave the flexibility needed for the most appropriate librarian available to take the query instantly and enter into a live conversation with the clinician. The project is supported by the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC), and was formally launched in October.

The team are hoping to extend the service to health libraries and clinicians in New Zealand and Canada so a truly 24-hour service can be operated, and also to extend the service to other trusts, possibly through the National Library for Health. In the UK, online help is currently available from midnight to 8am.

The Online Information 2004 awards, which took place in association with the magazine Information World Review, took place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London and was compered by Loyd Grossman. Other winners in the 28th annual awards included Open University Knowledge Networks, the British Library and Northamptonshire Observatory Portal.

Katharine Allen, who helped organise the industry event, said: “This year saw an extremely high standard of entries and the judges had tough decisions to make when picking the winners."

SWICE, part of South West Health Care Libraries, aims to provide web-based access to bibliographic databases and journals for healthcare professionals in the south-west of England.


Chasing the Sun
South West Health Care Libraries