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Information needs and information seeking behaviors of patients and families in acute healthcare settings

a scoping review

Kynoch, Kate1,2; Ramis, Mary-Anne1,2; Crowe, Linda1,2; Cabilan, Cara Joyce3; McArdle, Annie4

JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports: June 2019 - Volume 17 - Issue 6 - p 1130–1153
doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2017-003914

Objective: The objective of this scoping review was to explore the information needs and information seeking behaviors of patients and families from healthcare providers in acute healthcare settings in existing literature.

Introduction: A well-informed family can be crucial to a patient's capacity to cope with their diagnosis and hospital care during acute or chronic illness. Information is therefore critical to both the patient's and family's understanding of the illness and healthcare process. Providing appropriate and timely information can empower patients and families with knowledge and alleviate the anxiety and stress associated with a hospital admission. However, acutely ill patients and families in different acute care settings have considerable and differing information needs.

Inclusion criteria: This scoping review included studies undertaken in acute healthcare facilities where patients were over 18 years of age and family members were of any sex, culture and ethnicity. Family was defined as anyone connected to the patient by blood, marriage or other significant relationship. Healthcare provider perspectives of family and patient information needs were excluded. Concepts related to type of information, timing of information, preferences for who delivers the information and method of information delivery. Qualitative and quantitative study designs published from 2010 to 2017 in English were included.

Methods: Multiple databases were searched to find published and unpublished studies. A three-step search strategy was utilized. A charting table was developed for the data extraction process to record data relating to the review objectives. Specific data extracted included details on research design, geographical location, year of publication, characteristics of study population, research aims and outcomes as well as key findings related to patient and family information needs.

Results: The scoping review included 109 studies from across 34 countries. Of these studies, 68 used quantitative research designs, 29 were qualitative in nature and 12 included studies reported using mixed methods. One study used an action research methodology. Nine studies were specific to family information needs. A majority of studies were conducted in the cancer care context, with other acute settings comprising intensive care units, surgical settings and individual medical or surgical units/wards within and across the hospital. While most of the included studies addressed the type of content patients and/or families prefer, a few studies explored the timing of information provision.

Conclusions: The international literature on information needs of patient and families comprises multiple published studies on differing aspects of the topic and situated within various acute care contexts. Despite the broad nature of the research, studies suggest that preferences regarding information content, timing of information delivery and choices regarding who delivers information vary across contexts and according to the patient/family member. The complexity behind this variation and strategies to address tailoring information delivery requires further in-depth research.

1Evidence in Practice Unit, Mater Misericordiae Limited, South Brisbane, Australia

2The Queensland Centre for Evidence Based Nursing and Midwifery: a Joanna Briggs Institute Centre of Excellence

3Emergency Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

4Parent Education and Support Services, Mater Mothers’ Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia

Correspondence: Mary-Anne Ramis,

There is no conflict of interest in this project.

© 2019 by Lippincott williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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