HIFA global consultation (3) Improving the availability and use of reliable healthcare information would lead to substantial improvements in quality of care and health outcomes (2)

14 November, 2023

Dear Lucie and all,

"Behavioural science tells us that knowing something is not necessarily going to prompt action."

Yes indeed, knowing what to do (to deliver the best health outcome) is a prerequisite for effective action (evidence-informed decision making). But as you say, knowing what to do does not necessarily translate into action.

I agree also that it is very important we "focus on what that information is and how it is presented".

HIFA uses the term 'realiable healthcare information', and qualifies this as follows:

'We use this term to have a wider meaning than it suggests, namely that it is the information people need to protect their own health and the health of others. By definition, such information should not only be accurate and up to date, it should also be unbiased and reflect, as far as possible, the cumulative evidence based on robust research; it should clearly be in the right language, technical level, and format; it should be relevant and applicable to the person’s immediate situation (which is always changing); and the person should be empowered to differentiate it from the barrage of misinformation that does not fulfil these criteria.' https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2023/08/21/universal-access-to-relia...

You note: "Further, evidence and theory indicate that in order to cause activity, a person needs capability, opportunity and motivation. For health information to have behavioural impact therefore, it should address these influences (https://implementationscience.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1748-59... )."

Yes, as the paper states: 'Capability is defined as the individual's psychological and physical capacity to engage in the activity concerned. It includes having the necessary knowledge and skills.' The availability of reliable healthcare information (as defined above) is fundamental to capability. Access to reliable healthcare information is a prerequisite but other factors (such as opportunity and motivation) are important to support effective action. Those other factors are themselves strengthened by the availability of reliable healthcare information.

The paper also notes: 'Opportunity is defined as all the factors that lie outside the individual that make the behaviour possible or prompt it.' This is why reliable healthcare information should be 'relevant and applicable to the person’s immediate situation'. In HIFA discussions we have described such factors with the acronym SEISMIC: Skills, Equipment, Information, Systems, Medicines, Incentives, Communication facilities. 'The HIFA campaign focuses on the Information needs of healthcare providers, but clearly the full range of needs must be met to empower healthcare providers to deliver high quality care.' https://www.hifa.org/about-hifa/hifa-universal-health-coverage-and-human...

Finally, 'Motivation is defined as all those brain processes that energize and direct behaviour, not just goals and conscious decision-making.' It would be interesting to explore different types of motivation and how they can be impacted by better availability of reliable healthcare information and better understanding. For example, if a cigarette person's motivation is to remain healthy, to what extent would a true understanding of the harms of smoking contribute to their motivation to quit?

In conclusion, improving the availability and use of reliable healthcare information would lead to substantial improvements in quality of care and health outcomes.

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: neil@hifa.org