Category Archives: Resource Discovery

Blockchain

Emerging Technology Group updates will be produced every 2 months, as members of the group take it in turns to update the wider NHS library community on key topics. This time, we will be discussing blockchain and its implications for health libraries.

Blockchain: what is it?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum have been prominently featured in the media over the past 6 months or so. They are all based on the same technology: blockchain. Simply, blockchain is a secure digital record keeping system that is spread out across a large network. Information is stored in encrypted blocks which are then chained together. Information cannot be changed once it has been added to the chain, and because the chain is distributed across the whole network, it is very secure. There are more detailed explanations available on Wikipedia or from the LSE Business Review blog.

Implications for healthcare

There are a number of different ways in which blockchain could be applied in healthcare. One option which has seen significant interest is using blockchain to manage the storage and sharing of medical records, as is being explored at MIT. Till et al (2017) have also argued that blockchain could potentially be used to finance universal health coverage. Other potential applications of blockchain in healthcare could be in securely storing and tracking research metadata, global health patterns, or administrative and financial information (Gordon et al, 2017). This is an area that is seeing a lot of research and there are numerous startups exploring the opportunities available.

What about libraries?

Hoy (2017) argues that the blockchain could be used as a digital rights management (DRM) tool to aid in copyright protection. Blockchain could even potentially be used as a library management system to keep track of circulation in a decentralised way (Cabello et al, 2017). Another potential could be in the creation and maintenance of authority records for cataloguing and metadata. The project Blockchains for the Information Profession by San Jose State University is a good source of information and probably the best way to stay up-to-date in this field.

There’s always a but…

The long term viability of blockchain remains to be seen. One of the concerns that has been raised relates to the wider environmental impact of these distributed networks, which is already consuming more energy than the whole of the Republic of Ireland, although this estimate is also up for debate. In addition to this, there remain numerous barriers to the more widespread adoption of blockchain in healthcare or in libraries, not least technical issues relating to the interoperability of metadata, as well as a current lack of clarity around governance, regulation, and wider economic impact (Deshpande et al, 2017).

What can we do?

Keeping abreast of developments in this field so that we can have informed discussions with others within and outside our organisations would be a good place to start. I would argue that the proliferation of private companies leading the way in implementing blockchain in healthcare is an issue of concern. For any solutions to be sustainable in the long term, we need to be playing an active role in conversations around emerging technologies such as this.

References:

 

YiWen Hon
Knowledge Resources Manager
Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

How an institutional repository can add value and enable organisational knowledge to be shared.

Every year the information analyst in our Research & Development (R&D) department would spend weeks combing through PubMed, searching for Trust authored publications, assembling incredibly long and complicated search strings, comparing results against spreadsheets of names of Trust researchers… then assembling a publications report to attach as an appendix to the annual R&D report to the Trust board, or a spreadsheet of figures to send off to funding bodies. Reports which would then disappear into filing cabinets, or creaky hard drives, never to see the light of day again…

Until R&D and the Library worked together to launched the institutional repository!

The repository serves a dual purpose:

Firstly, the publications data is collected, checked and added to the repository on a regular basis (by library staff), saving the R&D department literally “weeks of time” (direct quote from a very happy information analyst).

Secondly, the publication details are made freely available online – showcasing all the research that takes place in the Trust.

This data was already being collected, but placing it in the institutional repository added value to it by making it:

  • Visible, searchable, discoverable
  • Organised – by division, specialty or department
  • Shareable – easy to Tweet about new articles, embed RSS feeds of new articles into subject resource hubs/intranet
  • Connected – linking research articles to research projects on the Trust’s research information systems
  • Open Access – including full-text versions of articles within publisher’s permissions, or linking to articles on publisher’s sites.
  • Promotable – ability to create researcher profile pages listing publications (good for CVs!)
  • Patient engaging – research participants can see what has been published in the studies they have been a part of

Institutional repositories don’t have to be limited to just published journal articles, they can also include other organisational assets such as patient information leaflets, Trust reports and publications, conference posters, innovations…the possibilities are endless! Your IR can either be internal or external facing depending on the content (your innovations may be protected by intellectual property for example).

You don’t necessary need fancy technology to put together an institutional repository – it can be something as simple as a spreadsheet or a blog – any tool or mechanism you can use to capture and organise knowledge. If you’re thinking about starting an institutional repository, see the Knowledge for Healthcare Institutional Repository Toolkit for ideas, tips & hints and case studies.

Organising and mobilising knowledge is what we information professionals do best and institutional repositories are a great opportunity to develop and strengthen relationships with other departments in our organisations (we’re certainly working closer with R&D now!) and to demonstrate our skills and value, so go for it!

Cate Newell
Reader Services Librarian and RD&E Research Repository Manager
Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust

The General Data Protection Regulation – why we need to act and how we can help each other!

In May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will replace the 1988 Data Protection Act (DPA). GDPR builds on the DPA and gives ‘data subjects’ (i.e. those whose data is being held) enhanced rights. If your library service collects data about individuals on library management systems, document supply systems, or swipe card access systems, uses social media or cookies on websites, or captures CCTV images, then this applies to you!

6 things to know about GDPR:

  1. All organisations (or groups of organisations) must identify a named Data Protection Officer (DPO).
  2. The definition of personal data now includes ‘any information relating to an individual’s… private, professional or public life’ and personal identifiers such as photographs, CCTV images, posts on social media and IP addresses.
  3. Data subjects have the right to be informed that their data is being processed via a privacy notice which explains the grounds on which data is being collected, who is processing the data, the intended use of the data, the retention period for the data, and their right to complain.
  4. Data subjects can access, correct and, in circumstances where extreme distress has been caused, erase data. Organisations must respond to requests for access within one month.
  5. Implied consent is no longer allowed. Individuals must opt in to their personal data being held. Statements such as ‘if you continue to use this website then you accept our cookie policy’ are not permissible.
  6. Personal data allowed under GDPR must be portable between organisations, so must not be held in proprietary formats/must be able to be exported to a generic format such as a .CSV file.

What should library services do now?

  1. Find out who is leading on GDPR in your organisation and prepare for a conversation with them about use of personal data in your library service.
  2. Do a quick library team audit of all the personal data you keep in relation to the services you provide. For each think: Who (is the data subject), What (data is being processed), Why (is it being processed), Where (is it being stored) and How (is it being used)?
  3. Think about what privacy notices you might need to cover the data processing requirements for your service. Privacy notices can cover more than one instance of data processing, but it must be possible for users to positively opt-in to each.
  4. Check your procedure for dealing with access, correction and deletion requests – and update these if necessary.
  5. Check that personal data you hold is held in or could be converted to a commonly used electronic format.

How can we help each other?

Many of our data processes will be common to all library services. Please reply to this blog post if you have already done GDPR preparation work and have anything you are willing to share (e.g. your audit of data processes or a new privacy statement) or if you have ideas about anything we could usefully do nationally.

Further information on the GDPR can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/ , which also contains an excellent ‘12-steps to consider now’ document (https://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf .

Naomi Korn Copyright Consultancy will also be providing advice on this issue at https://naomikorn.com/resources/ under the heading ‘Data Protection Resources’.

David Watson
NHS Copyright First Responders