Information prescriptions

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Information is prescribed via a simple form at the NHS
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Contents

Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 1 March 2016

Introduction

See also Bibliotherapy | Consumer health information | Digital liaison | Health 2.0 | Information therapy | Mindfulness in medicine‎

Information prescriptions – a popular form of patient education in the United States and the United Kingdom – is a method of providing personalized health information to patients and families by prescribing it. Information prescriptions, similar to drug prescriptions, aim to benefit patients and are viewed as part of treatment. Information prescriptions are also physician-written orders for patients to read about their health in order to develop a better understanding of it. An information prescription is a form of information therapy, and defined as "prescribing the right information to the right person at the right time". It is linked historically to bibliotherapy, consumer health information and information therapy and is a form of patient education. Some medical librarians are experimenting with linking electronic health records (EHRs) to reliable health information (a type of information prescription). Canadian health librarian, Francesca Frati, used to author the InfoRx blog.

Prescription-strength information is meant to facilitate patient decision-making and to aid in communication with physicians. Information prescriptions may cover key points in discussions patients have with their doctors, nurses or others on the health team. Physicians may prescribe information but nurses, dieticians, therapists, and others can also do so as necessary. Implicit in the use of information prescriptions is the idea that information empowers patients. Recently, government agencies in several countries have tried to promote the concept of information prescription programs in order to increase patients' understanding of their illnesses and conditions. Such a practice has a long history and many publications, but it wasn't until McKnight et al, 2014 completed a comprehensive literature review.

Information Rx program

Physicians prescribing information for patients

Information Rx is a well-established program of the National Library of Medicine (U.S.) created "...to help people better understand health information, to enhance conversations between healthcare providers and patients, and to encourage the use of evidence-based health information on the Internet." The program has a history that goes back to 2002; to 2005, the American College of Physicians teamed with the National Library of Medicine (U.S.) to explore information prescriptions in clinical settings. Information "pads" were used, which were analogous to writing pads used by physicians to prescribe drugs. The difference was they directed patients to reliable health information at websites such as MedlinePlus and the Genetics Home Reference website. At least one paper found that as physicians adopted information prescriptions, they perceived their value in enhanced patient education and interpersonal communications. Thomas concluded that Information Rx was not promoted or supported properly but thought clarification about the program and its aims were needed. Further, health librarians should be more involved and target audiences should include nurses. Canadian health librarians should consider developing their own national program around mandatory reading for improved care.

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