I’m going to have to eat the following words from my prediction of what to expect in this morning’s NLM Update:

I’m expecting to see several of the same highlights slides that were presented in the Theater and at Users Group, but the NLM Update tends to be more of a celebration of everything NLM does to improve health information access around the world.

Certainly, there was much to be celebrated, but Dr. Lindberg, Betsy Humphreys and Sheldon Kotzin should be commended for “stepping up to the plate” and talking about some of the most challenging issues facing NLM and our profession, including publication bias, electronic health records, meaningful use, translational science and yes, PubMed Health. They used the hour well.

Here are some notes from the talk by Betsy Humphreys, Deputy Director of the National Library of Medicine.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS). Betsy showed a great slide she used in 1988 to illustrate to librarians how it would all work. I tried to take a photo of that slide but was not fast enough. Did anyone else get it?

I admit to not knowing as much as I should about UMLS. It’s critically important, especially now, because it’s “under the hood” of electronic health record systems and can help extract the signal from the large amounts of data that will come out of those systems for clinical and translational research. A quote from Betsy: “When EHRs really arrive we have to expect a vastly different landscape… for all of us in terms of how we deliver services.” Another quote for job seekers and career shifters out there: “experts for terminologies in EHRs are in high demand and short supply.” UMLS also drives the Medical Text Indexer, which reduces level of staff time required for a first pass at indexing journal articles, which helps NLM keep up with the ever increasing volume.

If you, like me, are underinformed about UMLS, I highly recommend Patrick McLaughlin’s NLM Theater talk on UMLS/RxNorm and some new synopses and tutorials that are available. You can catch that talk later today I think, or watch the recording when NLM posts it online after the meeting.

Betsy briefly described Meaningful Use requirements for EHR incentive funding from the HITECH Act. MedlinePlus Connect provides a free and easy way for EHR implementers to meet a Meaningful Use requirement related to patient education. In a talk yesterday, Loren Frant reported that, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being most difficult to implement, the Cleveland Clinic rated MedlinePlus Connect a 1! Now that’s high praise.

Next came the moment many of us have been wondering about for a long time. What would NLM have to say about PubMed Health, this mysterious new site with such high prominence in Google Search results? In truth, they don’t have much to say… yet. We know its purpose is to provide health consumers with better access to systematic reviews and comparative effectiveness research. We also now know that Google released it in pre-alpha form long before NLM was ready for that to happen. We don’t yet know if or how it will relate to another prominent NLM consumer health website which shall remain nameless here. Betsy reported that PubMed Health will continue to be developed over the summer, and that further announcements would be forthcoming. Watch your RML’s blog for updates. We’ll be covering PubMed Health for sure.