What our Panel said about health information... March 2018

This month, COORDINARE sought to understand how people in South Eastern NSW prefer to access health information when it is needed to better manage health care (whether their own or that of a loved one). We were also interested in understanding what type of information our panel members might expect from a doctor during a consultation.  

Responses indicated that 50% of participants prefer to consult a doctor first and foremost for information about a health condition.

During a consultation, it is encouraging to see that more than 85% of participants would ask their doctor further questions to clarify a health issue. Most people felt confident in asking their doctor to explain medical terminology they didn’t understand. Yet there is still room for improvement, with 1 in 3 people indicating they did not feel as though they were being listened to by their doctor.

During a medical consultation, 1 in 5 participants have received a health resource to read or look up, with the most common resource being a brochure. Of those who did receive a health resource from their doctor, more than 95% indicated that they used the resource and found it insightful.

When researching a health condition, participants said they look for resources that are ‘easy to understand’ and provide ‘more detailed information’ about the symptoms, prognosis and treatment of a health condition. Pleasingly, one person said that a health resource they read, ‘answered questions I hadn’t thought to ask’.

50% of people are very likely to seek out health information through an online source. However, some participants felt that health websites can become quickly outdated and often contain misinformation.  

March CHP word cloud

Above: Our panel was asked what is most helpful or not helpful in a health resource. 

When seeking information about a health condition, our panel members would prefer to access an Australian health resource. However, depending on the type of condition (i.e. if it is rare or not commonly experienced in Australia), participants felt that a current international resource would be valuable.  

Participants overwhelmingly look for resources that are current and accurate, with over 90% of people indicating this. Other key priorities among our panel are that the health resource:

  • is easy to understand (74%)
  • uses pictures and/or animations (46%)
  • contains basic language (42%).

A small percentage of people feel that culturally sensitive resources are also important.

While 80% of panel members are not involved with a health-related community support group, those who are found the service through a health professional, a friend or family member, or an online search (including via social media). Some participants indicated that they had founded their own health support group in the region.   

The majority of panel members had strategies in place to understand whether a health resource contains accurate information. Some of the most common strategies included:

  • cross-referencing and checking dates of publication 
  • trusting reputable sources only (i.e. peak bodies, government websites and peer-reviewed research)
  • consulting a doctor or health professional if in doubt.

Thank you to all survey participants for sharing your experiences with us. These views will be taken into account as we work with doctors, nurses and general practice staff to improve access to health information and resources in South Eastern NSW.   

For trusted health advice about a range of medical issues, visit the Health Direct website: www.healthdirect.gov.au/

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Please note: COORDINARE is not a clinical health service and cannot advise individuals about their health care. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider regarding any questions or concerns you may have about a particular medical condition.