Information for evidence-based care By Ruth Roberts Radcliffe Medical Press 79 pages £17.95

One feature of healthcare initiatives in the 1990s has been a focus on the importance of information on both the effectiveness of treatments and the process of care. The gathering and use of information to inform the practice and the management of healthcare presents great challenges to professionals in the field.

Information for Evidence-Based Care provides a brief history of evidence-based care, exploring the development of clinical effectiveness initiatives and the methods of appraisal essential for informed practice.

There are also chapters on clinical guidelines, patient information and clinical audit. The final chapter is a round-up of new issues resulting from the latest white papers and an examination of the importance of continuing education.

The main value of the book is that it introduces the issues of finding and using information in a concise and readable fashion.

It usefully summarises the development and rationale of some of the key initiatives in the 1990s, such as clinical effectiveness and clinical guidelines.

It is helpfully cross-national in its description of how different parts of the UK, in particular Wales and Scotland, have developed these initiatives.

The major weakness is that the book was clearly written several years ago and has suffered from the fast pace of change. It has been patchily updated, most obviously in the final chapter, which talks briefly about the potential impact of the latest white paper initiatives, such as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

For a book that focuses on the importance of information and how to access it, there is an almost complete absence of website addresses.

This may reflect the length of the book's gestation. Excluding website addresses may perhaps be a sensible policy given the volatile nature of the Internet, but unfortunately the book is also free of contact addresses, and can be unhelpfully vague. For example, the existence of a US database of health services research is noted, but its name is not supplied.

This book may serve as a useful brief introduction for students who want to learn how we have reached the current state of play with regard to clinical effectiveness, clinical audit, guidelines and consumer information.

However, it will not, by itself, help the reader to find very recent or current information on these themes.

Julie Glanville Information service manager, NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, York University.