4. Biomedical Information Services Provided by NIC

                                                          Sibli Sirajee


Tremendous growth of literature, both printed and electronics, in the areas of biomedicine and health sciences and innovation of modern technologies as a tool of information storage and retrieval are leading to the new concepts in the evolution of medical libraries. The last twenty years have been marked by tremendous advances in computer storage, together with improvements in telecommunication methods. There has been a considerable increase in the quantum of electronic information available in the form of full-text documents, bibliographic references, and factual data. These have led to revolutionary changes in ways of storing ad handling information systems containing hundreds of databases, electronic journals, electronic knowledge banks etc. and ultimately there has been profound change among the medical professionals in the demand for information, in order to keep them abreast with the latest developments. 

Recognizing the needs for making biomedical information to the medical community of India National Informatics Centre and Indian Council of Medical Research jointly set up the ICMR-NIC Centre for Biomedical Information in 1986. The primary goal of the Centre was to meet the information needs of the medical professionals in India from the MEDLARS (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval) databases of NLM, USA. The Centre provides information from the MEDLARS databases as well as various biomedical resources, accessible over Internet, to the users in the country. In 1990, the Centre came to be recognized as the 17th International MEDLARS Centre (IMC). 

MEDLARS has over 40 databases. The subjects range from clinical medicine, oncology, population, dentistry, toxicology to nursing. These database are accessible through the Internet, free of cost. Important amongst these are MEDLINE, AIDSLINE, AIDSDRUGS, AIDSTRIALS, TOXLINE, CANCERLIT, POPLINE, BIOETHICS, Clinical Alerts. MEDLINE, a bibliographic database, is the computerized version of Index Medicus covering 3900 core biomedical periodicals from over 70 countries. The database, with over 9 million citations, includes journals from 1966 onwards and also has journals found in International Nursing Index and Index to Dental Literature. 

IndMed Database: There has been very poor representation of Indian journals in various international databases. There are only 23 Indian journals included in the Medline database out of 3900 international journals. This has created an “information gap” in the medical field depriving the users of the benefit the research work being conducted in India. To fill this gap indigenous database viz. IndMed comprising of Indian biomedical journals developed at the centre consisting of 75 journals selected by a committee of prominent editors of the journals in the country. This database has been developed in the lines of Medline database and can be accessed from the website: http://indmed.nic.in.  Earlier databases covering Indian literature in the fields of Neurology, Cancer, Tuberculosis and Population developed by Nimhans, Bangalore; KMIO, Bangalore; TRC, Chennai and IMC respectively were also included in IndMed. 

CD-ROM Databases 

IMC also has library of Biomedical CD-ROM databases from which information is retrieved and provided to the users on demand. Some of the CD-ROM databases available are: 

AMED Allied and Complementary Medicine -subjects covered include acupuncture, terminal care, symptom control, osteopathy, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, chiropractic, holistic treatments and podiatry.

CANCER-CD - presents comprehensive coverage of published literature in cancer and cancer related subjects.

COCHRANE DATABASE - Database of Systemic Reviews, published by the Cochrane Collaboration and Best Evidence, a database containing publications from American College of Physicians (ACP) Journal Club. Both these databases are full-text and offer systematic reviews of current medical research.

Drug Information Full-text/IPA - combines the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Drug Information Full-text with their International Pharmaceutical Abstracts. The information covered includes all information on drugs, ethics, healthcare, pharmacology, side effects and toxicology.

MICROMEDEX - Computerized Clinical Information System (CCIS) - collection of critically evaluated, fully referenced, current, full-text medical information consisting of a number of information systems, each dedicated to a different area of specialties.

PASCAL BIOMED -as a unique multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual database, it serves as a complement to the MEDLINE database, with special emphasis on European literature. 

PATIENT EDUCATION LIBRARY - this library is a comprehensive collection of full text patient information covering over 2,000 topics. It includes information on infant, child and adolescence health, women’s health, and adult health and senior health. 

POPLINE - a unique source of information on population, family planning programs, population law, maternal and child health, population and environment and other related health issues. 

PsycLIT- presents comprehensive information on psychology and related subjects. It includes behavioral information from other fields like sociology, linguistics, medicine, law, physiology, business, psychiatry and anthropology. 

Support Services: 

Every information centre needs to cater not only the bibliographic information requirement of its users, but also requires providing support services to keep the users satisfied. Some of the support services provided by IMC are: 

Union Catalogue of Biomedical Serials: 

A database of the Serials holdings of major medical libraries in the country, entitled Union Catalogue of Biomedical Periodicals has been compiled by IMC and this serves as an important information tool for locating journals of interest in any library in India. The database of 180 libraries is regularly updated and can be accessed by users free of cost. The IMC User Centres can search for the information by Journal Title, Journal Code, and

Library code.

Document Delivery Service:

Full-text of journal articles can be obtained on request from IMC. These requests are met from Adonis database, which is produced and published by Adonis B.V., the Netherlands, providing access to the articles from 800 core journals in the biomedical, chemical and pharmaceutical disciplines. The journals covered are from 1991 onwards. The bibliographic details of the Adonis database viz. ADON is available online for the users, free of charge. Articles from Journals covered in Index Medicus (Medline database) available at NLM, USA, are also procured using Doc View facility and provided to the requestor. 


For precise and efficient information retrieval from the MEDLARS and other databases, IMC provides free training to the Doctors/Medical Librarians and the staff of User Centres on “Online Searching of Biomedical Databases”. This is a five-day training programme in improving the information retrieval skills of these professionals. These programmes are held at NIC Hqrs., New Delhi, NIC State/District Offices as well as User Centres. The course content of the programme is: 

·        Introduction to NIC’s Biomedical Information Services

·        MEDLARS Databases

·        BRS/SEARCH Commands

·        Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

·        Search Strategy

·        Biomedical Internet Resources

·        CD-ROM databases

·        IndMed, ADON and Union Catalogue


Workshop cum Training on “Biomedical Research and the Internet” 

IMC also conducts 3 to 5 day training cum workshop on Biomedical Research and the Internet. This is again for the benefit of medical as well as information / library professionals. The course content of this programme is: 

·           Brief Introduction on NIC’s Biomedical Information Services

·           Need for INTERNET and Impact on Biomedical Research

·           How Doctors meet their information needs using the INTERNET

·           Biomedical Resources Accessible through the INTERNET

·           Information Retrieval Techniques for Searching the resources

·           Quality Control and Marketing of Information Services and INTERNET

·           Telemedicine

·           Individual Presentations by Participants

User Awareness Programmes: 

The Indian MEDLARS Centre conducts 1 – 2 days programmes aimed at creating an awareness of the biomedical information services available for the medical community. These User Awareness Programmes are conducted at NIC State / District Offices or at medical colleges / hospitals. The programmes include one-hour lecture on the services being provided and this is followed by an online demonstration of these services. 

Value Added Services: 

To match the user needs, Indian MEDLARS Centre, has introduced the following value added services:

Content page: The content pages of interest from biomedical journals, include in the ADONIS database, are made available on a monthly basis. 

Disease Package: In the case of epidemics exhaustive information is compiled from different sources and disseminated over NICNET for free distribution to Doctors & Voluntary Agencies in the affected areas through NIC State/District centers. 

Drug Package: Information like doses, pharmacokinetics, contraindications, adverse effects and clinical applications of a drug are compiled and supplied on request. 

Patient Care package: Top priority is accorded to information need for patient care. Information from all sources is compiled and handed over to the requestor. 

Biomedical Information on Internet: Hundreds of sites are available in the field of biomedicine on Internet. A portal site (http://indmed.nic.in) listing some of the useful sites have been developed to help the medical professionals and link has also been provided to these sites.


Broadly defined, telemedicine is the transfer of electronic medical data (i.e. high-resolution images, sounds, live video, and patient records) from one location to another. This transfer of medical data may utilize a variety of telecommunications technologies, including, but not limited to ordinary telephone lines, ISDN, fractional to full T-1's, ATM, the Internet, Intranets, and satellites. Telemedicine is being utilized by health providers, in the USA, in a growing number of medical specialities, including, but not limited to: dermatology, oncology, radiology, surgery, cardiology, psychiatry and home health care. Its application in radiology is more common as compared to in other fields. Teleradiology system acquires radiographic images at one location and transmits them to one or more remote sites where they are displayed on an interactive display system and / or converted to hard copy. Transmission might include CT-Scans, MRIs, or x-ray images.

In India, there are many remote areas, which lack the basic health care facilities; patients have to travel for miles before they can be treated at any hospital/health care Centre and many do not survive this journey. Hence, it becomes very essential that the Telemedicine concept be introduced and implemented in the country. It is definitely possible and feasible to start this in India with the existing telecommunication infrastructure. 

NIC’s Telemedicine project aims at providing health-related information resources, decision support tools and data at the time and place of need by health care providers across the country. To start with NIC would allow consultation facilities over NICNET (NIC’s satellite based communication network) where doctors in remote areas can consult the specialists in neighboring cities. This is already underway at a remote region in Andhra Pradesh where doctors in Nellore can consult specialists at Sri Venkateswara Inst. of Medical Sciences in Tirupati. This would be expanded to transmission of X-ray, MRI, and CT-SCAN reports over NICNET. 

NIC also plans to introduce consultation over videoconferencing where, the specialists would be able to "see" the patients and provide consultation / diagnosis or treatment options. This would basically comprise of telediagnosis and teleconferencing elements enabling clinicians at clinical sites across the region to better communicate, collaborate, and gain access to NIC’s Medical Informatics Services. The extension of this infrastructure would ultimately result in region-wide integrated access to critical medical resources including practice guidelines, expert systems, secure communications channels, bibliographic databases, electronic publications, and other knowledge-based decision support resources.