Information overload in healthcare: too much of a good thing?

Z Evid Fortbild Qual Gesundhwes. 2015;109(4-5):285-90. doi: 10.1016/j.zefq.2015.06.005. Epub 2015 Jul 27.


The rapidly growing production of healthcare information - both scientific and popular - increasingly leads to a situation of information overload affecting all actors of the healthcare system and threatening to impede the adoption of evidence-based practice. In preparation for the 2015 Cochrane Colloquium in Vienna, we discuss the issues faced by three major actors of this system: patients, healthcare practitioners, and systematic reviewers. We analyze their situation through the concept of "filter failure", positing that the main problem is not that there is "too much information", but that the traditional means of managing and evaluating information are ill-suited to the realities of the digital age. Some of the major instances of filter failure are inadequate information retrieval systems for point-of-care settings, the problem of identifying all relevant evidence in an exceedingly diverse landscape of information resources, and the very basic lack of health information literacy, concerning not only the general public. Finally, we give an overview of proposed solutions to the problem of information overload. These new or adapted filtering systems include adapting review literature to the specific needs of practitioners or patients, technological improvements to information systems, strengthening the roles of intermediaries, as well as improving health literacy.

Keywords: Gesundheitsinformation; Gesundheitskommunikation; Gesundheitskompetenz; Information literacy; Informationskompetenz; Informationsüberfluss; Informationsüberlastung; Verbreitung von Informationen; Zugang zu Informationen; access to information; health communication; health information; health literacy; information dissemination; information overload.

MeSH terms

  • Austria
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Information Management*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Internet*
  • Patient Access to Records
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical*