Seven out of 10 people went online in the past year to look for health information, according to a survey by Pew. From typing symptoms into a search engine to engaging with people who are living with a disease, health information is at our fingertips.

But does having health information so readily available cause unnecessary stress or worry? Or can it empower and help patients to make better decisions about their treatment and care?

The Patient Information Forum (PiF) has recently produced a report that gives evidence for providing patients with health information. It states that it can help enhance their experience of care but must be of high quality.

So how can you make sure that you produce information that patients trust? There are thousands of health-related websites and social media channels – some of these are reliable, others aren’t. It’s worthwhile thinking about how you create and display your information to ensure that it’s reliable. Below are some of my top tips.

  • Before you even start writing your health information, make sure that you spend time finding evidence-based sources, such as journal articles and national guidelines to create your information.
  • Publication dates are key – if an article is several years old then the information may have changed. So that patients know when your article was produced, insert a date at the top or bottom of the page. You also need to make sure that you review the information regularly to check that it’s still accurate.
  • Including basic contact information can be a telltale sign of whether your website, blog or social channel is reliable. Make sure you include a telephone number, email or mailing address so that patients can contact you with any questions. This is also useful for user feedback, which you can use when you next review the information on your website or social channels.
  • Create an ‘About us’ page that includes profiles of the writers and reviewers of your health information. You can insert a link to this page when you create a new article. If your information is written or reviewed by a healthcare professional, patients are more likely to trust it.
  • Include a list of the sources that you have used to create your health information. The reader can then use these sources if they want to find research the topic further.

For more information about whether health information in social media helps to empower patients or causes confusion, Brandcast Media are hosting an event for Social Media Week on the 25th September. The event is entitled ‘Health is Social: Patient Empowerment or Confusion?’ Joining the Chair will be LBC 97.3 FM’s resident doctor, a paediatric allergy consultant, a two-time cancer survivor and patient advocate and the Digital Engagement Specialist from Diabetes UK. Find out more information and register.

Checklist for creating information that a patient can trust

Use the checklist below to ensure that you produce health information that can be trusted.

  1. Have you researched the topic and used reliable sources, such as journal articles and national guidelines, to create the information?
  2. Have you included publication dates within your articles?
  3. Have you included the name of the author in your article?
  4. Do you have contact information on your website, blog or social channel, including a telephone number and email/postal address?
  5. Do you have an ‘About us’ page with the author and reviewer profiles?
  6. Have you included a list of sources that you used to create the information?

Author profile: Becky Canvin

Becky has over six years experience creating and advising on best practice of content. She has worked within the healthcare industry, previously with Bupa and currently with Brandcast Media where she is a digital content manager.

Brandcast Media is a digital content agency based in London and Singapore. Sister company Brandcast Health is a leading healthcare communications agency. Launched in 2005, they have delivered award-winning campaigns for many of the world's leading hospitals and clinics.


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