The quality of materials produced for patients and the public is key to making the information desirable (DECIDE patients and public). Guideline developers therefore require quality criteria to use when developing patient-directed knowledge tools. The International Patient Decision Aid Standards (IPDAS) collaboration has also developed validated quality criteria specific for patient decision aids. One example of national consensus-based quality criteria for development, content and governance of patient-directed knowledge tools is that produced by the National Healthcare Institute of the Netherlands (van der Weijden et al. 2019).
The Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT) is a systematic method to evaluate and compare the understandability and actionability of patient education materials (Shoemaker at al. 2013). It is designed as a guide to help determine whether patients will be able to understand and act on information. Separate tools are available for use with print and audiovisual materials.
We have developed a checklist for ensuring good-quality guideline-based information, shown in box 2. The information gives the essential requirements for producing such health information for the public (DISCERN, Shoemaker at al. 2013).
Box 2 Checklist for producing good-quality information for the public
- Makes its aims and purpose clear.
- Provides details on funding, who produced the information, when it was produced, and what sources were used to compile it.
- Follows a logical format and uses everyday language. Medical terms are defined when used.
- Clearly presents information on treatment options, what will happen if no treatment is used and about the certainty of the evidence. Language reflects potential uncertainty.
- Provides the information in chunks. Uses boxes, tables and bullets to break up text.
- Provides easy to understand numbers.
- Provides visual aids to promote understanding, for example, a picture of a healthy portion size.
- Gives easy to read online information and spoken words can be clearly heard and understood, for example, pace is appropriate. Language is non-directive and non-persuasive.
- Uses an active voice in written and online information.
- Clarifies the actions for people to take.
- Signposts to other sources of information.