Conference paper

Animated instructions for medicines: who can assess the quality and effects?

Patients Medicine Animation

Information for patients about medicines is a global problem. Texts are incomprehensible, hard to read, difficult to apply, and very hard to relate to other information. The Regulatory Authorities (Food & Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency) are aware of this and keep suggesting improvements. Despite many efforts patients do not receive information about medicines in a format that they can use. The pharmaceutical industry, pharmacists, hospitals, and insurance companies are developing additional information sources on websites, on smart phones, and as ‘patient education materials’. These documents are still tightly regulated, but provide alternative information sources for patients. The quality and benefits of all visual information sources need to be evaluated. During the development of animations about treatments and medicines, it became clear that there are at least six different groups of people who can assess the information about medicines. These are:

a. the writers/designers: applying linguistic and visual criteria

b. the client: applying commercial and strategic criteria

c. the regulatory authorities: applying legal criteria

d. professional disciplines (writers/designers/doctors/pharmacists/nurses): applying disciplinary criteria

e. patients: applying health criteria (finding, understanding, applying information to maintain or improve health)

f. society: applying civil criteria (sustainability, cost/benefits, public concern)

In order to establish if a simple animation is acceptable, it was necessary to apply the often mutually exclusive criteria of all six groups. A focus on the needs of patients is an essential starting point, but the other perspectives must be considered too. Balancing these remains a major issue and makes compromises unavoidable. Toulmin’s argument layout offers a useful approach to discuss the relevance of the six perspectives for the design of information for patients.

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