Written patient information materials used in general practices fail to meet acceptable quality standards
BMC Family Practice
Patient information materials and decision aids are essential tools for helping patients make informed decisions and share in decision-making. The aim of this study was to investigate the quality of the written patient information materials available at general practices in Styria, Austria. We asked general practitioners to send in all patient information materials available in their practices and to answer a short questionnaire. We evaluated the materials using the Ensuring Quality Information
... for Patients (EQIP-36) instrument. A total of 387 different patient information materials were available for quality assessment. These materials achieved an average score of 39 out of 100. The score was below 50 for 78% of all materials. There was a significant lack of information on the evidence base of recommendations. Only 9 % of the materials provided full disclosure of their evidence sources. We also found that, despite the poor quality of the materials, 89% of general practitioners regularly make active use of them during consultations with patients. Based on international standards, the quality of patient information materials available at general practices in Styria is poor. The vast majority of the materials are not suitable as a basis for informed decisions by patients. However, most Styrian general practitioners use written patient information materials on a regular basis in their daily clinical practice. Thus, these materials not only fail to help raise the health literacy of the general population, but may actually undermine efforts to enable patients to make shared informed decisions. To increase health literacy, it is necessary to make high quality, evidence-based and easy-to-understand information material available to patients and the public. For this, it may be necessary to set up a centralized and independent clearinghouse.