Sources of health information

How health information is produced and published

There is an overwhelming amount of health information available. Health information comes from research and the best available evidence and professional knowledge currently available.  

At its simplest, health information can be divided into two categories: 

  1. Primary (unfiltered) sources (e.g. article reporting on a drug trial) 
  2. Secondary (filtered) information (e.g. review of trials for a drug). 

Sources of reliable health information 

Libraries, including public, state, university and health libraries support access to reliable health information. For example, the National Library of Australia and State Library of Queensland provide access to quality online resources including health databases.

These Australian websites are good examples of quality, publicly available, online health information for patients and consumers: 

  • healthdirect has information ranging from daily health issues, such as nutrition or smoking, to specific information topics, such as diabetes or asthma.
  • BetterHealth Channel includes current and emerging health issues, developments in medical research and practice, and national and state health priorities.
  • NPS Medicinewise contains practical tools and information about medicines, health conditions and medical tests in the Australian context.
  • Lab Tests Online aims to help consumers understand their pathology tests (e.g. COVID-19,  thyroid etc.).
  • eatforhealth.gov.au has advice about the amount and kinds of foods that we need to eat for health and wellbeing.
  • Australian Government, Department of Health includes health topics, latest news, resources and key facts.

Cochrane provides plain language summaries of health evidence to help people understand and interpret research findings.


 Read the Cochrane plain language summary, Do physical measures such as hand-washing or wearing masks stop or slow down the spread of respiratory viruses? to answer this question:

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Clinical health information

Clinical health information resources help you find  evidence-based  guidance for your day to day practice. These resources include:

  • guidelines
  • evidence summaries
  • point of care tools
  • patient handouts and information
  • medicines information
  • procedure and skills tutorials
  • reference works.

The information is presented in a format which is easily consumed and followed.

Guidelines

Clinical practice guidelines are recommendations on patient care based on current evidence. 

Key guideline sources

You can find clinical guidelines from a variety of sources, including:

Evidence summaries

Evidence summaries bring together studies that examine  particular health questions.  These studies are assessed for their quality and the results brought together or synthesised, in order to assist in clinical decision making. An evidence summary can range from a simple precis to an in depth systematic review.

Key evidence summaries

  • Cochrane Library contains up-to-date information on the effects of interventions in health care, designed to provide information and evidence to support decisions taken in health care and to inform those receiving care.
  • TRIP: turning evidence into practice is a clinical search engine designed to allow users to locate research evidence from sites around the world.

Evidence-based point of care tools are also sources of evidence summaries. 

Point of care tools

Point of care (POC) tools are designed to provide clinicians with quick access to evidence-based information to support decision making for patient care. 

Key point of care tools

  • DynaMed is a clinician-focused tool designed to facilitate efficient and evidence based patient care.
  • JBI EBP database searches across summarized and appraised evidence, to inform practice.
  • UpToDate is esigned to answer the clinical questions that arise in daily practice at the point of care. Note: Off campus access is only available to UQ students.

This Dynamed tutorial (YouTube, 2m13s) shows how to search and follow topics and alerts.

This UpToDate features and shortcuts tutorial (YouTube, 3m25s) demonstrates some of the key features of UpToDate.

Patient handouts and information 

Patient handouts give accurate evidence-based information, in a format that is understandable to a person without health expertise. They are available from many point of care tools, as well as some health services and government health departments. Patient handouts are intended as information only and are not a substitute for advice from a qualified practitioner.   

Some examples include: 

Medicines information 

Information resources about medicines include content such as drug identification, interactions and consumer medicine information. The Pharmacy and Pharmacology guide includes key resources.

Information about medicines prescribed in Australia is available from:

Procedure and skills tutorials

Most health professions require the clinician to have a wide range of physical skills for performing procedures. You can check Library Search and our subject guides for online and print textbooks that illustrate these skills.

Online multimedia resources demonstrate procedures using video and animation, including:

Augmented and virtual reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are changing the way health professionals and students learn clinical skills, and how patients are treated and cared for. 

See how HoloLens augments learning at UQ (YouTube, 1m 48s).

UQ students and staff can borrow a HoloLens from the Library

Reference works

Often clinicians need basic, factual information. This might include the trade name of a particular drug or some basic anatomical information.

Human skeleton and anatomy image

Source: Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Examples:

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Professional resources

Health professions are registered in Australia under:

Find the accreditation authority for your health profession to learn more about registration standards, accreditation and approved programs of study.

Professional organisations and societies are key sources of information relevant to health professionals. They include resources to support health professionals and students. For example:

UQ Employability has resources for career development.

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Guides for finding discipline-specific information

Most university and hospital libraries provide subject guides to information and resources for specific disciplines. Access to online resources is often restricted to authorised users.

Subject guidesThe guides include key books, journals and databases to find articles and specialised resources for your area. For information related to other aspects of health such as economics, law or social sciences, refer to the relevant guide.

Clinicial Knowledge Network (CKN) guide The Clinical Knowledge Network (CKN) is available for staff working in the Queensland public health sector. It provides clinicians with direct access to the latest evidence-based information for point of care decision making; medical, nursing and health research, and ongoing professional development.

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Evaluating health information

Why is it important to evaluate health information?

Health information may vary in terms of relevance, detail and accuracy. It is important you evaluate information to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Criteria for evaluating information

There are some general aspects to consider when evaluating the quality and relevance of information.

Evaluate information you findProvides some starting points for evaluating and assessing information using the CRAAP test, which stands for:

  • Currency
  • Relevancy
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose.

  Evaluate these sources using the CRAAP test:

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Fact versus fake news

It’s important to check the quality of health information and look out for fake information, including on social media. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the growing spread of false information about health, with the World Health Organisation head calling it an "infodemic". With so much information available, it makes it hard to know what information is trustworthy and reliable.

How to spot fake news UQ researchers have shown that our own backgrounds, biases and stereotypes can affect the way we trust information and suggest the top 5 things to check.

Fake news, facts and dataFake health information is often spread on social media. This page explains some ways fake news is generated and has tips on how to spot it.

A Field Guide to “Fake News” and Other Information Disorders This takes an in-depth look into fake news and the digital methods being used to study fakes.

The UQ Library EBP guide includes information on critical appraisal and different levels of evidence  - a systematic method to rank different types of evidence.


  Use our Reliability of health information sources pyramid to help you do the following activity:

Check these sources of health information.

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