Are we still relying on too narrow a definition of Patient Information?

The provision of high quality Consumer Health Information (CHI) – across the NHS, commercial, voluntary and academic sectors is an area growing importance for the following reasons:

  • The greater proliferation of data
  • The increasing demand for transparency and accountability
  • The shift to “Nudging” people rather than simply “nannying” them, requiring more complex interventions to promote pro-social personal health behaviour.

We have previously blogged on the need to properly address key challenges in the provision of health information. Whilst some issues are being addressed, health information providers still don’t always fully appreciate the need to go beyond the “facts”.

The assumption of providers is that patients:

  • Behave as a “consumer”
  • Are ready, search data, trade-off, prioritise (choosing clinical performance over convenience) and choose the best performer
  • Are egocentric and detached

Thus the role of state/provider is “information telling” to mainly assist these assumptions.However the public do not always respond. Instead:

  • There is evidence that people look for short cuts
  • People are overawed by data – discount data that doesn’t fit their view or seen as complex Social process rather than cognitive
  • People make irrational decisions using their own internal logic
  • The process is complex, iterative and emergent – knowledge construction
  • Is based on soft factors, for example, reciprocation, social proof etc

And when it comes to information they:

  • Don’t search it out
  • Don’t understand it
  • Don’t trust it
  • Don’t use it in a rational way to make choices – instead being selective depending on their needs and motivations

Since we previously covered this issue, books like Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow‘ have confirmed the point about the complexity of human engagement. Kahneman describes the two different ways the brain forms thoughts:

  • System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotyping, subconscious
  • System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious

However despite all those very relevant points, which broadly support the points we have made in the earlier blog post, we have still seen some in the health information community saying that the provision of factual and rational information is the only real solution, so getting the percentage of people online becomes the key metric without considering the quality of the transaction. This has the danger of leading to even bigger problems when the people fail to respond in the way some health information professionals hope.

How values based segmentation and communication might help?

If we understand levels of motivation and the importance of emotions in delivering messages there are a number of practical ways this can be taken forward. This is an area that TCC has much experience and, along with its understanding of Values Modes, can add value to. Specifically we can:

  • Use the British Values Survey database to understand the groups that are most likely to read the information and yet fail to be motivated by it. This can be supplemented by qualitative research to explore people’s needs, values, world views, motivation and behaviour and how these views relate to accessing and acting on information
  • Produce research that would assist organisations develop more effective approaches in both written and verbal information.

The ability of individuals to access to information will continue to increase and will undoubtedly benefit many. Unless an organisation is mindful and seeks to understand the different values of their audience, and how this shapes their actions, the information it provides will fail to engage and connect with some of its most vulnerable client groups.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here. I am grateful to discussions with a number of TCC staff  past and present in the last two years that have assisted me taking forward the points in the earlier TCC blog posting referred to above.

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One Response to “Are we still relying on too narrow a definition of Patient Information?”

  1. What the public sector can learn from the John Lewis Bear and Hare advert | The Campaign Company Blog Says:

    […] The public sector needs to wake up to the power of emotion in human behaviour and recognise that to focus too much on information without reference to emotion is a big, costly mistake as we all walk round well wadded with emotional filters.   […]

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