Transforming information access using QR codes

In Australia a library service provides ambulance workers with rapid access to critical information.

Imagine you are an Australian ambulance worker on the front line of critical care.  Your patient has suffered a suspected insect bite and you need to confirm both your diagnosis and the correct treatment.  It could be a matter of life and death.  You have an urgent requirement for specific information - but you can't remember how to log into the information resource - and you can never remember your password.

Library services often focus on providing 'everything to and for everyone' and the South Australian Health Library service is not exception.  It provides resources for medical study and the bedside.  But this 'traditional' view of providing an information service was turned on its head by a project to provide very specific information (information on toxins) to a very specific group of users (ambulance workers) in emergency situations. 

The team set out to explore how they could provide immediate and seamless access to vital information resources to these front line staff.

Simple - but not necessarily easy!

The team set out to provide simple QR code access which could be scanned by ambulance workers on their own devices.  They wanted to ensure there were minimal screens to work through and that the project would require no external, outsourced IT resources - they wanted to be able to support and develop the project themselves.  In particular they wanted to provide seamless access that required no additional authentification at point of use. The team approached four vendors and one agreed to develop a URL with embedded user names/passwords.  Ambulance workers are now being trained on using the new resource.

And the lessons learned?  Sometimes a 'small' project can have enormous implications and benefits.  By working closely with the Ambulance team to understand the way they work and the situations they can face, the library team developed a strong and valuable cross departmental relationship that resulted in an information tool that could genuinely save lives.

Karen Wilkins of the South Australian Health Library Service shared her story at Internet Librarian International 2014.