The title of this year’s Patient Information Forum (PIF) conference – Information and support: a service in its own right – sums up something I’ve strongly believed for many years.
What a patient knows and understands about their condition and the choices available to them forms a crucial part of their care. Making sure they have accurate, relevant and clear information should be a top priority for any service provider. The right information is essential to achieving those holy grails of ‘engagement’ and ‘person-centred care’.
At long last it seems as if the message is getting through.
As PIF puts it, 2012 was “the year information came of age” with the publication of the Department of Health strategy The power of information, which states that “access to good quality information, and being supported to use it effectively, is an important health and care service in its own right”.
Patient information has moved on since the PIF was formed in 1997 by a team of people working in London hospitals who found there was little or no support for their special interest within their organisations.
PIF now has 400+ members from across all sectors, including large international companies, small health charities and national health departments.
Organisations like PIF offer information specialists the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from each other. They also provide vital support for people working in roles that can be isolated and under-valued, even in organisations where the importance of information is acknowledged.
PIF points out that, when it was formed, “few hospitals had more than one member of staff working to produce and develop health information for their patients”, but adds that “sadly that is a situation that still exists in many NHS organisations”.
As information is – hopefully – increasingly viewed as a service in its own right, having the right people (with the right support and resources) to produce it should be seen as a priority too.