Finding and sharing reliable consumer health information with patients and families

by Linda Yang on 2021-10-18T08:30:00-03:00 | Comments

Health information is everywhere in traditional and social media—on TV, in the news, and online. Finding and using information to guide health decisions can be overwhelming for patients and families (Abrams et al., 2021), especially when it may be misinformation (Hammes, 2021; Chowdhury et al., 2021). Given today’s complex information landscape, how can health care providers support patients and families to find and use information they can trust?

Recommend Trusted Places to Look for Information

The first step is to recommend trusted sources. Nova Scotia Health’s Subject Guides for Patients and Patient Education Pamphlets are great places to start when guidance related to a hospital visit, specific procedure, or diagnosis is needed. Patient pamphlets are also available through Nova Scotia’s public libraries.

When patients or families need more information, recommend starting with MedlinePlus®. This is an excellent online resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Public libraries in Nova Scotia also collect books in a variety of formats to support community consumer health. For example, Halifax Public Libraries provides access to Gale Health and Wellness, a searchable database of disease and disorder information.  

Model Critical Thinking & Information Evaluation

Next, consider the health literacy of the people you support (refer to the blog post from August 30, 2021) and mitigate misinformation. Encouraging critical appraisal of information sources and promoting health literacy are effective communication strategies to help patients and families navigate the information they encounter (Abrams et al., 2021).

Online sources of health-related information require particular oversight to ensure that they provide accurate, appropriate and understandable content that meets the unique needs of various populations of patients.
Beaunoyer et al., 2017

For example, when you need to look up evidence for a patient, or when a patient brings in a piece of health information, go through your own critical thinking process aloud. Try using the CRAAP test to encourage patients and families to evaluate information quality (Blakeslee, 2004):


  • When was the information published or updated?
  • If it is an online source, are all of the links and website components functional?


  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information presented at a level that is not too elementary or advanced for your needs?


  • Who is the author/publisher/editor?
  • What are the author’s qualifications and organizational affiliations?
  • Is the content sponsored or an advertisement for a product?
  • Are there multiple sources for information on the topic?


  • Is the factual information supported by evidence from another reliable source?
  • Is there too much preamble and not enough substance?
  • Is the information free of grammatical and spelling errors?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased?


  • Is the purpose of the information to inform/persuade/entertain?
  • Are there personal/organizational/cultural/other biases?

By suggesting trusted sources to support the health of patients and families, and modelling critical thinking and evaluation, you can give our communities the tools they need to navigate today’s information-rich environment. Making these simple actions a part of your daily practice can also normalize asking questions.

If you need additional support with resources to recommend, please reach out to the library team for help at AskLibrary@nshealth.ca!


Abrams, E. M., Singer, A. G., Greenhawt, M., Stukus, D., & Shaker, M. (2021). Ten tips for improving your clinical practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 33(2), 260–267. https://doi.org/10.1097/MOP.0000000000000998

Beaunoyer, E., Arsenault, M., Lomanowska, A. M., & Guitton, M. J. (2017). Understanding online health information: Evaluation, tools, and strategies. Patient Education and Counseling, 100(2), 183–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2016.08.028

Blakeslee, S. (2004). The CRAAP Test. LOEX Quarterly, 31(3), 6–7. https://commons.emich.edu/loexquarterly/vol31/iss3/4

Chowdhury, N., Khalid, A., & Turin, T. C. (2021). Understanding misinformation infodemic during public health emergencies due to large-scale disease outbreaks: A rapid review. Journal of Public Health (Berlin), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10389-021-01565-3

Hammes, L. S., Rossi, A. P., Pedrotti, L. G., Pitrez, P. M., Mutlaq, M. P., & Rosa, R. G. (2021). Is the press properly presenting the epidemiological data on COVID-19? An analysis of newspapers from 25 countries. Journal of Public Health Policy, 43(2), 359-372. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41271-021-00298-7

Linda Yang

Librarian Educator

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