The Centre for Evidence Based Mental Health (CEBMH), part of Oxford University, has launched a virtual branch library. It provides information on sensitive illnesses like depression, alcoholism and schizophrenia, writes Paul Donovan.
The mental health branch library, designed by Aris working with the NHS, took four months to develop and is one of 12 virtual libraries making up the NHS National Electronic Library for Health. There are other libraries for diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, health management and learning disabilities.
"Each library has a common NHS presentation, though every individual entity has its own look and feel," said Aris spokesman Ian Hudson.
The first phase of the project involved Aris and CEBMH working to structure the Web site, so that different visitors could log on to customised information.
Patients, clinicians and academics all log onto a customised interface, enabling them to reach information quickly.
The public will be directed via the NHS Direct portal while medical staff will go through other NHS portals.
Phase one of the library is run on Lotus Notes version 5. Further enhancements are to bring greater functionality, including wireless application protocol services.
The mental health database is not yet complete. Schizophrenia and post-natal depression are to be added by April.
Karen Dearness, the CEBMH's knowledge officer, said, "We have taken the best quality evidence from complex medical reviews, to an easy format. This system provides an answer to a question in 15 seconds."
The CEBMH has also introduced a celebrity element to the site. "This has been NHS depression month. We have featured video clips of Louis Appleby, the Government mental health czar, talking about it," said Dearness. "We also hope to have Monty Don."
Hudson said, "The CEBMH already had a Web site. Aris replaced the existing system, incorporating the latest technology. It enables the CEBMH to offer a long-term global resource to a broad audience."
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This was first published in January 2001