Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Healthwise creates trustworthy health educational content

I just spent a week in Boise, learning how Healthwise creates health educational materials .

If you haven’t heard of either Healthwise or Boise, this is quite understandable ! It’s a little known secret that Healthwise is the world leader in creating high quality health educational materials – content which is curated, updated , reliable, trustworthy and simple to understand . Now one would think that creating patient education material cannot be such a big challenge - all you need to do is to find the facts ; get a medical writer; simplify the facts ; and then present them ! How hard can that be ? Can’t you just Google for information and find everything you wanted to ? Doesn’t wikipedia provide tons of free patient education information for everyone ?

It’s only  when I visited Healthwise did I realize what a complex task creating high quality engaging patient educational content can be ! It's true that creating basic patient educational materials is not hard - but crafting content which actually helps patients make better healthcare decisions is extremely
challenging ! Writing and delivering content which leads to a change in behavior is one of the hardest thing in the world to do – and this is the standard which Healthwise uses when judging the quality of their content.

Healthwise has a large team of medical content writers who specialize in writing content - but this is not enough. After writing the content , you need to make sure that you can deliver it ! In the old days, you just needed to publish a book – but the print book format is something which is no longer very valuable in this day and age , where most people access information digitally . Healthwise has an entire engineering team, which creates products, which allow them to deliver their content in chunks , which people can use,  when they want it - either on the smart phone or on the PC . Learning how to be able to use technology to deliver content in a fashion that is relevant to the user and is tailored to the user's needs is not a trivial exercise. It involves a lot of additional technology such as meta-tagging and responsive design, so that it's possible for the user to get exactly the right information which she needs at that particular time!

Even after creating an engine to deliver the content , you then need to continue making sure that the content is updated ; is trustworthy ; and doesn't get outdated. This is an ongoing exercise ! Unfortunately, Indians still don't understand the value of good-quality health content , and are very reluctant to pay for it. But as Mark Twain once famously said - Be careful when you read a health book – you may die of a misprint. This is especially true today, when there’s so much unreliable and untrustworthy information on the net - information which comes from quacks ; and from commercial sources such as medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies , whose information is often contaminated and untrustworthy because it's biased – they are just trying to sell their products !

The great thing about the Healthwise information is that because it is produced by a nonprofit organization , whose sole mission is to help people make better healthcare decisions, this is high-quality information which can be trusted. In fact , it can be trusted perhaps even more than you can trust your doctor , because they have no biases or prejudices.

This is why spending the week at Healthwise and learning how they actually go through the process of creating this information was very inspiring !

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