Information therapy

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 1 March 2016


See also Bibliotherapy | Consumer health 2.0 | Consumer health information | Information prescriptions | MedlinePlus (U.S.) | Patient education

"...information therapy (Ix) has been formally defined as "the therapeutic provision of information to people for the amelioration of physical and mental health and well-being”..." ~ Keene, 2011

Information therapy or infotherapy is defined as ...the timely prescription and availability of evidence-based health information to meet individuals’ specific needs and to support sound decision-making. According to Andersen (2013), information therapy is "...the prescription of information intended to help patients understand their health and their health care issues." As such, information therapy is not new but related to patient-centred care, electronic information technologies and consumer empowerment through health information. There is a direct link between information therapy and evidence-based care, and current digital trends suggest information therapy is more important than ever. The idea of infotherapy as a form of therapy is novel especially when provided by health professionals and where key evidence-based information is given (and explained) to patients at each step of their health journey. As a type of information service that has emerged in the past two decades, the trend seems to be catching on in Canada, the UK and Australia. The concept is closely linked to the recent interest in using information prescriptions in patient education.

Information therapy is designated by the symbol Ix™ and combines aspects of information and therapy, library and information science, health and medicine. The term has important application in patient compliance, consent and health literacy activities. Similarly, information prescriptions are physician-written orders for patients who want to read something about their care. Prescription-strength information is meant to help patients make decisions about whether to continue with treatment or not, and to examine alternatives. Ix is a form of bibliotherapy and may be compared to other complementary therapies since it is used to effect perceptual changes in the patient. Several articles define information therapy as "prescribing the right information to the right person at the right time", a concept which recalls the philosophies of Melvil Dewey and S.R. Ranganathan.

Role of health librarians

Information therapy has been described as "collaboration between client and librarian". Health librarians are trained to provide information to patients and consumers. In fact, their collaboration often focuses on satisfying the information needs of patients and teaching them how to find information on their own. Being information literate may entail learning how to search the web for health information and even critically appraising health websites. The health librarian also aims to impart the principles of health literacy in his interactions with patients. Ix is often described as "...the prescription of evidence-based medical information for a specific patient, caregiver, or consumer at just the right time to help the person make a specific health decision or behavior change." Information can thus be seen "as important to a patient’s health as any drug, medical test or surgery", according to Schneider (2002). Ix has been said to play an important role in health care and enabling a shift to patient-centered care.

Other definitions

Information therapy Ix is the timely prescription and provision of evidence-based health information to meet individuals' information needs and to support sound decision-making. Information prescriptions (Keene, 2011) are usually written by a physician or nurse, but can be written by health librarians. This emerging area is a mix of bibliotherapy, cognitive therapy, computer and information literacy, and even psychotherapy. Information therapy does seem to have some connection to the psychological factors that affect health. In ideal settings, Ix should be used to empower patients by providing them with sound clinical evidence. Ix brings the patient’s contribution, activity, participation, experience, knowledge and wisdom to medical practice. Although it is a form of treatment, it is also a supplement and complement to other therapies.

Canadian context

Some form of information therapy is probably being used in various health care organizations and hospitals across Canada. However, research or cases studies in the area are not easy to find. The Canadian health system and managed care in the US have the unique advantage of connecting important stakeholders in delivering care. They are physicians, hospitals and clinics, nurse advice lines, other health workers, and so on. Infrastructure needed for information therapy to reach effective levels is not always available, even in a country as large as Canada. Despite these challenges, Canada has everything it needs to be a health information success story. We have a well-educated populace, a growing Internet infrastructure, organized healthcare with centralized system potential, long-standing health policies that recognize how much people can do for themselves in managing their care and a desire to extend the reach of care. To ensure that people get what they need in rural and urban areas is the challenge; evidence-based information that is written for the Canadian public is needed.

Are there any specific examples of Ix in operation in Canada? Let me know


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