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Communicate clearly the evidence base for your health information

Join in the Quality Assurance discussionAs well as the sources of evidence, this should include communicating clearly the quality of evidence used, including where there is only limited evidence, or where evidence is low-quality or conflicting.

Ideally, consumer health information should be based on high quality research evidence. However, this will sometimes be problematic because of gaps and uncertainties in the evidence or a lack of consensus. The resources in this section link to a number of suggested approached for how to communicate uncertainties in the research evidence.

Why is this important?

You need to be aware of the recommended norms for the management of the health conditions and the use of the healthcare interventions that you are interested in.

Draft Guide to the Production and Provision of Information about Health and Healthcare Interventions. (2003.) Section 5 - finding the different types of information you need.. NHS Scotland.

Some of the questions that patients want answered have not been addressed by research or cannot be answered clearly by the available evidence. In these circumstances there is growing consensus that it is best to be honest about gaps in research evidence...If you do need to use estimates and opinions, you should make it clear that this is what you are doing.

Draft Guide to the Production and Provision of Information about Health and Healthcare Interventions. (2003.) Section 6 - producing the first draft.. NHS Scotland.

It is essential that patient information is explicit about the degree of uncertainty, as categorical statements and didactic recommendations that don’t acknowledge scientific uncertainty are unreliable and help no one.

Assessing the quality of information to support people in making decisions about their health and healthcare. (2006.) Picker Institute Europe.

These findings and results of previous research should encourage organizations communicating evidence from synthesized research to provide detailed information about effects and quality of evidence narratively using a standardized language and in a table.

Santesso N, Rader T, Stromme Nilsen E, et al., A summary to communicate evidence from systematic reviews to the public improved understanding and accessibility of information: a randomized controlled trial. (2014.) Volume 68, Issue 2, Pages 182–190.. J Clin Epidemiol.

If information is presented in a non-neutral manner, it can stimulate a range of cognitive biases that can unduly affect people’s knowledge, their perceptions of risks and benefits, and, ultimately, their preferences

Abhyankar P, Volk R, Blumenthal-Barby J, et al., Balancing the presentation of information and options in patient decision aids: an updated review. (2013.) 13(Suppl 2).. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.

...information reflects the weight and quality of the evidence available and that conflicting evidence has been noted and not omitted and you have clearly identified where there are uncertainties or unknowns.

The Information Standard Principles and Requirements. (2013) Point 2d..
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Resources to support you

  • Good referencing

    Including a list of your sources in your content makes your information transparent. It shows readers that your information is accurate and evidence-based. This factsheet contains key points to bear in mind when referencing and outlines the different reference management software that are available to use.

  • Communicating the quality of evidence

    How reliable are the studies you’ve drawn your information from? And what’s the best way of sharing this with your audience? This factsheet provides a quick guide to understanding the quality of the evidence you are using.

  • A summary to communicate evidence from systematic reviews to the public improved understanding and accessibility of information

    This article provides, and evaluates, a best practice example of of a summary presenting research from synthesized evidence to patients and the public.

  • How to prepare and present evidence-based information for consumers of health services: A Literature review

    A study of evidence about how to prepare and present evidence-based information to users of health services to assist them with decision making. Includes a section on accuracy, evidence and uncertainty in communicating risk (p24).

  • The DISCERN Instrument

    DISCERN can be used by authors and publishers of information as a guide to the standard which users are entitled to expect. It includes criteria for being clear on the evidence-base, communicating uncertainty, and sharing the date a piece of health information was created. It also covers signposting to further sources of information and support, issues that affect quality of life.

  • IPDAS 2005: Criteria for judging the quality of decision aids

    This checklist specifies criteria for transparent, balanced and unbiased communication of health information to aid decision making. It covers: having a clear structure for layout;  asks if resources help patients to make appropriate decisions; the need for planning and identifying objectives; and having a systematic development process

  • Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE)

    A database focussed on systematic reviews that evaluate the effects of health care interventions and the delivery and organisation of health services.

  • Different levels of evidence

    Contains sections on finding evidence, critical appraisal, and communicating the evidence-base.

  • IPDAS 2005: Criteria for judging the quality of decision aids

    This checklist specifies criteria for transparent, balanced and unbiased communication of health information to aid decision making. It covers: having a clear structure for layout;  asks if resources help patients to make appropriate decisions; the need for planning and identifying objectives; and having a systematic development process

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How have others done this?

View all case studies on this topic

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