Patients seeking information about their health are subject to a wide array of resources — including everything from websites to direct-to-consumer advertising to recommendations from family and friends. The proliferation of health information – once thought to be a critical component in patient empowerment – can confuse patients and may leave them worse off as they question if they’ve made the right decision.
New and better ways of informing patients will be required if they are to be truly empowered in the decision-making process. Through the Choosing Wisely® campaign, Consumer Reports is helping make complex health information easier to understand so that patients can engage in conversations with their health care providers about what care they really need.
Consumer Reports has partnered with the health care technology company iTriage to provide Choosing Wisely information to patients through its free app and website. Choosing Wisely lists from 17 medical societies, along with corresponding Consumer Reports patient-friendly materials on 160 conditions and procedures, are included in a section called “Do I Need This Test?”
iTriage developed an in-app survey last fall to determine awareness of the Choosing Wisely campaign, as well as overuse and waste more generally. Nearly 1,500 people completed the survey, and iTriage used the feedback to create a report.
“We were really pleased about how many people find value in the Choosing Wisely content,” said Stephany Wilson, Thought Leadership Strategy Manager at iTriage.
The survey found that 82 percent of people who have seen Choosing Wisely content and patient-friendly brochures from Consumer Reports believe these tools help them make more informed health care decisions.
While feedback on the Choosing Wisely materials was positive, other areas highlighted opportunities for improvement. Fifty-eight percent of responders chose “No” or “Do not know” to the question, “Do you think the amount of unnecessary tests and procedures in the U.S. healthcare system is a problem?”
“I don’t think consumers quite grasp how big of a problem waste is,” said Kevin Riddleberger, Senior Director of Clinical Solutions at iTriage. “But it’s a promising sign that a majority of responders said they were familiar with Choosing Wisely or were interested in learning more.”
The Choosing Wisely content has garnered nearly 500,000 views since early 2014, a growing audience among iTriage’s nearly 15 million app subscribers. Information about the campaign is also shared with users through iTriage’s daily health news feed and blog.
The survey also highlighted some gaps in communication between physicians and patients that could provide guidance about how and when to foster more effective discussions around unnecessary tests and procedures.
Only 14 percent of users access Choosing Wisely information on iTriage while at a doctor’s office—where physicians and patients have the opportunity to discuss appropriate care.
“Patients have so much on their minds when they are in a waiting room before the appointment,” Riddleberger said. “They might be aware that Choosing Wisely materials are available, but they might not be able to absorb the information. Being able to offer the information when it’s appropriate for that patient, in the right format for them, will make it more effective.”
In addition, about 44 percent of patients surveyed responded that conversations about the necessity of certain tests only happen if they ask. Easy-to-access Choosing Wisely and Consumer Reports content on iTriage might help empower patients to ask more questions and start better, more confident conversations with their providers.
“We’re at a time in health care where things are changing,” Wilson said. “Patients are becoming more aware and have more of a voice in the decision-making. Providers and patients are figuring out how to have conversations about which tests and procedures might be necessary and which might not be.”
Using the survey data, iTriage hopes to further study the implications of low health literacy, continue to collaborate with medical societies and further distribute Choosing Wisely resources to increase awareness about the campaign. The survey findings will also inform data-driven decisions to improve and enhance the product, which will continue to evolve to help consumers make better, smarter health care decisions in the future.