29 January 2011

Better health an information problem?

Thomas Goetz at TEDMED, working from the premise that better health is an information problem rather than a science problem, shows design improvements to the standard test report forms (e.g. blood and PSA testing) that doctors receive. He claims that engaging patients with information in this kind of format can help them with the decisions and behaviour change they need to make to improve their health. There's no evidence for his claims, although also no doubt that the re-designs are an improvement on traditional forms.

In the course of his talk Goetz cites patient information re-design studies by Schwartz, Woloshin, and Welch and unreferenced dentistry research showing that fear does not motivate behaviour change in people's own dental care, whereas peoples' belief that they can make changes (efficacy) does. Goetz' claim is that information is the first step towards efficacy in health behaviour i.e. that thinking about patient engagement is more appropriate than trying to gain compliance.

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