You might have COVID-19: improving patient education
for behaviour change using information design

SMH-SV-COVID-19 Patient Education

St. Michael's Hospital (ED)

Innovation concept: In March 2020, a large number of patients with symptoms concerning   for COVID-19 started presenting to emergency departments (EDs) and rapid assessment centres. Patients were asked for drastic behaviour change with limited interventions. The patient information available relied on text, had   limited language availability, and used complex nomenclature and   instructions. This made comprehension difficult, even for healthcare professionals. We sought to develop easy to understand and adaptable information sheets (printables) to guide patients with symptoms of COVID-19 in self-care and general guidance on self-isolation. 


Methods: Rapid iterative design method was used, using principles of inclusive design, to develop the   printables. The SURF framework on patient outcomes after ED care was   incorporated, as was prior research on designing effective communication materials for patients/family caregivers. The rapid design cycle engaged across disciplines including emergency physicians, public health professionals, and health communication designers. Aware of the need for rapid scaling and spread, we took an open innovation approach to dissemination. 


Curriculum, tool, or material: Licensed under creative commons, the printables are non-branded, non-jurisdictional, are available   for download, and are easily editable. This enables rapid adoption and easy updating for changing guidelines or local circumstances. Designed for easy printing and handoff with a simple 1 page, black and white design, the printables are dominated by infographics that are simple, consistent, and friendly, with no discernable gender or race. All text is low literacy friendly and supportive (i.e. positive enabling, avoiding negative and   authoritarian language or tone). The information design is highly structured with consistent blocks to aid comprehension and memorability. All materials incorporate a call to action, the result of rapid research on COVID behavior change messaging. 


Conclusion: There has been an international response to the   printables, with over 3000 website visits in 1 week during March, 2020, and   an international award. The printables have seen continuous use in our   emergency department and across Canada. Now professionally translated into 45 languages, there are 8 printables, filling a gap in health communication. A partnership with community organization Access Alliance has led to wide scale distribution among health partners beyond the emergency department.


Authors: S. Vaillancourt, K. Sellen, S. Gupta, C. Rice, Y. Ghader, G. Ginocchio, A. Ceccacci

Samuel Vaillancourt - sam.vaillanncourt@utoronto.ca

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