Artificial intelligence (AI), balancing the needs of diverse users and planning a year of activity were hot topics at our latest Health Information Challenges and Solutions Workshop.

The event, hosted by Macmillan Cancer Support, was our first in-person workshop since the pandemic.

As well as two rounds of discussions, members at the event were also given a sneak peek of upcoming guidance and provided feedback on the PIF website ahead of a review this summer.

The first series of discussions focused on four key topics:

  1. Finding and using apps and AI to help create information
  2. Planning a year of health information activities
  3. Balancing the needs of diverse users with budget and resource restraints
  4. Conveying complex information and risk

Finding and using apps and AI to help create information

Both the opportunities and risks presented by AI were discussed at the workshop.

AI was identified as a useful way to start meeting the demand for translated materials. Members discussed the use of automatic translations on websites and the creation of avatars which reflect the intended audience.

Recite Me and Virtturi were both identified as useful tools. 

However, members also highlighted the importance of keeping a human touch on materials, particularly when dealing with sensitive topics.

One of the largest AI threats identified was the use of large language models (LLMs) like ChatCPT. 

Answers given by these models may be based on unreliable evidence or be taken out of context. There is also a risk that they will draw traffic away from reliable health information websites.

PIF is currently creating an AI position statement which will be published later this month.

Planning a year of health information activities

Members shared several tips for balancing the competing demands of resource reviews, internal audits and PIF TICK assessments which are summarised below.

Consider the following to prioritise resource reviews rather than having everything on the same schedule:

  • Age of the resource
  • Its popularity
  • How accessible it is
  • Any major updates to guidance
  • Potential risks of the resource being out-of-date

For PIF TICK assessments, add evidence of processes to the online portal throughout the year rather than waiting until the assessment is due.

To help speed up expert reviews:

  • Provide specific questions
  • Compensate reviewers for their time through payment, professional development points or recognition
  • Ask reviewers to recommend other professionals who might be willing to take part
  • Share relevant guidance updates to make it clear why review is needed
  • Use apps or management software to keep track of reviewer details and how many times they have been asked to participate

New PIF guidance on working with medical reviewers is currently in development and will be published shortly. 

Balancing the needs of diverse users with budget and resource restraints

Meeting the needs of users while working with limited time and budgets is an ongoing challenge for PIF members.

Members highlighted the importance of setting a clear objective for a resource from the start of a project. This can help set realistic expectations and focus resources on the users who need it most.

Translation was once again a core issue in this discussion. Two key methods were discussed to help prioritise translation.

The first is to look at the largest demand. Are some languages being requested more than others? Is there a widely spoken language in an area you are trying to reach?

The second is to look at risk. Who is most at risk as a result of being unable to access translated materials? Is there a high-prevalence of a condition among a specific population?

Starting with health-literacy friendly materials was highlighted as a key way to make translation easier and information more accessible to all.

Members also discussed the need to reach those who are offline to avoid the threat of digital exclusion.

Anyone interested in finding out more about creating health and digital-literacy friendly resources can sign up to our new workshop here.

Conveying complex information and risk

Members spoke about the use of diagrams and other visuals to help communicate risk, show treatment pathways and illustrate symptoms.

Data visualisations were identified as a useful way to convey complex information. They are also good for people viewing information on their mobile phones.

However, there is a need to consider accessibility for those with colour blindness and visual impairments. It can also be hard to create visualisations when there is limited data, for example, in rare conditions.

Illustrations and diagrams can also be expensive and time consuming to produce, particularly for information producers who do not have in-house teams.

Free photo libraries were suggested as one solution. The Age-positive image library was highlighted as one example of good practice.

Members also discussed the need to ensure different skin tones were represented in both photos and illustrations. Mind the Gap was highlighted as a useful resource which shows signs and symptoms on black and brown skin.

Other discussion topics

During the second round of quickfire discussions members covered four more topics:

  1. Dealing with ‘grey area’ misinformation
  2. Creating technical information for expert users
  3. Recruiting, engaging and retaining diverse reviewers
  4. Promoting importance of information in wider healthcare setting

Dealing with ‘grey area’ misinformation

Diet advice was identified as a key area where ‘grey area’ misinformation is an issue.

Members discussed the need to take an empathetic approach when tackling misinformation.

It can also help to acknowledge uncertainty and the varying quality of evidence.

Creating technical information for expert users

Members discussed whether there is a need to create in-depth materials for “expert patients” or those who want more technical information. 

A key consideration was the risk of, for example, newly diagnosed patients finding these resources online and being overwhelmed. Members emphasised the importance of the “right information at the right time”.

Even when containing a greater breadth of information, resources should still be easy to read and use. 

Access PIF’s guide to using plain language in health information here.

Recruiting, engaging and retaining diverse reviewers

Historically, users taking part in engagement activities have not been representative of the wider population. With more engagement activity moving online, new groups are also at risk of being left out because of digital exclusion.

A risk evaluation was once again identified as one way to prioritise reviewer recruitment. Who is most at risk because of being excluded from engagement? Are there groups which have been historically excluded or harmed? Focus recruitment activities on those groups first.

A range of engagement activities should be used to maximise the chances of engaging with different users. This should include both online and offline activities.

Another suggestion was to think about what will motivate users to participate. It might be payment but it might also be meeting other people with the same condition for the first time.

More advice on involving diverse users is available in our co-production guide and our guide to producing information for children and young people.

Promoting importance of information in wider healthcare setting

With an election expected later this year, members identified an opportunity to promote the importance of health information within the wider healthcare setting.

They discussed how we could bring together evidence and case studies to demonstrate the impact of good information.

A mandate for hospital trusts to signpost trusted, up-to-date information was suggested as one possible ask. In Wales, for example, it is mandated that Welsh health bodies signpost to the EIDO library of procedure specific information.

PIF is planning to repeat our large-scale Is Knowledge Power? survey and report this year.