'Quality signposting': the role of online information prescription in providing patient information

Health Info Libr J. 2011 Mar;28(1):59-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2010.00912.x. Epub 2010 Sep 29.


Background: Information prescriptions (IPs) are part of a Department of Health (DH) initiative to improve patient care. IPs aim to meet health information needs by providing personalised, high quality patient information about conditions and treatment.

Objectives: This paper identifies current online IP provision and evaluates a sample of IP websites against the original DH aims of IP provision; British Medical Association usability criteria; and information seeking vignettes.

Methods: Five UK and one international IP website were randomly selected as a sample. Two checklists designed to appraise the websites were used to review each IP provider. Two patient information seeking vignettes were developed to enable the websites to be assessed from a patient-centred perspective.

Results: Information prescriptions currently vary in content, accessibility and quality. National IP websites score more highly than local IP websites, which are often weak on content for specific conditions and poorly designed but strong on signposting to local services.

Conclusions: Guidelines for IP provision need to be improved to ensure higher quality, more easily accessible information is available. A synthesis of expertise included in national and local websites would improve usability for patients. IP websites should conform to standards of web design and accessibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Computers
  • Comprehension
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Internet / organization & administration*
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • United Kingdom