Joshua Seidman is the president of of the Center for Information Therapy
that aims to provide the timely prescription and availability of evidence-based health information to meet individuals’ specific needs and support sound decision making.
I had a fun meeting recently with some smart folks from the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation that raised questions about Ix that could use some clarification. When we talk about information therapy (Ix), we often drift into “evidence-based information” to help with some specific health condition.
That certainly is an important component of Ix, but it’s too limiting in many circumstances. When we talk about the “proactive delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time,” that has to encompass whatever the information needs of the consumer are.
What we know from talking with consumers and from a variety of other
research and projects is that people have health and health
care-related information needs about so many things that have nothing
to do with the best evidence-based health information.
Common questions might include:
- How do I find out if this procedure is covered by my insurance?
- Who should I go see for this condition?
- How do I get there?
- What can people who have had this condition tell me about what it’s like to live with it?
The list of questions is virtually endless. The point is that
information therapy refers to getting good information to people for
whatever the consumer needs for his or her well-being and health/health
care-related decision making.
This became clear in the Medicare Health Support project designed to
support the chronic care needs of the frail elderly with multiple
conditions. It turned out that a majority of their needs were not
clinical. They needed help getting transported to their appointments,
filling medication prescriptions, getting meals prepared for them, and
generally alleviating a great deal of social isolation. They still had
great information needs, but they needed to be tied to other resources.
In this context, it is no less important that the Ix consists of “good
information,” but it does mean that “evidence-based” is sometimes too
limiting a criterion for high-quality information in the context of Ix.
We need to make sure that we find ways to measure the quality of the
information regardless of what kind of guidance consumers need.
The one sure way to make sure that we are truly meeting the consumer’s
information needs at particular moments in care is to continue
observing their behavior and asking them what would help them live
healthier, higher-quality lives.