Researchers investigate the design of patient information for medical investigations
The patient journey is defined by information and usually follows
sequential stages, often referred to as ‘clinical pathways’, which seek
to optimise outcomes for patients whilst improving efficiency for
healthcare professionals and healthcare providers. During such stages,
patients may experience anxiety due to uncertainty, fear due to invasive
medical investigations, and embarrassment and pain due to personal
exposure and physical discomfort felt during investigations. Information
can be valuable to inform and support patients and to positively affect
their experiences. Understanding the value of patient information and
how best to design and provide information that meets patients’ needs
and preferences was the focus of David Keane’s PhD research with MATCH
at The University of Nottingham.
A user-centred approach to the
patient journey was taken and studies were designed to evoke emotional,
psychological and social responses from participants to medical
investigations and tests in the context of screening and diagnostic
healthcare situations. The value of patient information in the
situations was also examined.
The user-centred approach was
qualitatively driven, eliciting informational needs and preferences and
establishing factors affecting attitudes. Examples of these factors
include ‘benefits’ (benefits of being screened), ‘purpose’ (purpose of
an investigation or test in response to symptoms) and ‘sensations’
(perceived pain and discomfort during investigations and tests, and the
use of alleviating substances).
Respecting patient values and
preferences is the basis for the ‘no decision about me without me’
policy in healthcare. Patient information is seen as essential to this
policy. The factors approach enabled an understanding of what patients
would consider in screening and diagnostic healthcare situations if they
had the option of, or required, a medical investigation or test. This
understanding was recognised as a potential approach to the design of
patient information with two benefits.
Firstly, a ‘factors based
approach’ to the design of patient information could facilitate patient
engagement with, and retention of, information and aid decision-making,
and secondly, it would contribute to the creation of guidelines to
assist designers in the development of patient information.
factors-based approach to the design of patient information was examined
for an invasive medical investigation and compared to information that
is currently available and provided to patients for the investigation.
Qualitative findings revealed the factors approach was looked upon
favourably by most participants because its information structure was
preferred and information navigation was improved. Participants
perceived the information to be clearer and quicker to navigate, read
and understand. Quantitative findings supported the qualitative findings
with respect to satisfaction with, and retention of, information.
information guidelines are available for packaging and package leaflets
for medicinal products and for assessing decision support technologies.
However, none are available to a similar standard that can be used and
applied for the design of patient information for medical investigations
and tests. The factors based approach demonstrated its potential
benefit to the design of patient information itself as well as to the
development of guidelines for design. Work is currently underway that
will see these guidelines produced and publicly accessible to assist
patient information designers and others involved in patient
By David Keane, Michael Craven & Sarah Sharples
This article first appeared in The Ergonomist, No 524 February 2014