Making decisions about health care is a daunting prospect for many. But this is set to become easier now that Queensland Health has adopted a set of communications principles which will underpin a new approach to support value based health care and consumer decision-making. These principles are the key outcome of the Helping Consumers with Decisions project which Health Consumers Queensland undertook for the Strategic Communications Branch earlier this year.

In 2021, Queensland Health’s Strategic Communications Branch (SCB), engaged Health Consumers Queensland to undertake a short-term ‘discovery phase’ project to better understand the materials and information already available to support value-based healthcare (VBHC) and consumer decision making.

Value based healthcare (VBHC) is an increasing focus of health systems including Queensland Health. VBHC aims to ensure that everyone receives care based on the best available evidence and that finite care resources are used optimally to achieve best possible outcomes for patients.

We appointed an experienced consumer representative, Keren Pointon, as a consultant on the project. Keren was supported by Anne Curtis, HCQ Engagement Consultant – Specific Projects, and HCQ Engagement Advisor Leonie Sanderson in undertaking the project.

A range of research methodologies were utilised during the project including a literature scan, a desktop review, a review of Kitchen Table Discussion reports, structured interviews with Hospital and Health Service (HHS) engagement staff and a consumer survey.  Keren also consulted with Consumer Advisory Group Chairs from different Hospital and Health Services and consumer leads.

The key insights from this research confirmed that consumers strongly endorse the need for consumer decision support and conversation tools and their use to help them make better informed decisions about healthcare. However, these tools and VBHC approach needs to be implemented in a strategic, consistent, systematic and collaborative way across the state, with all key stakeholders involved – consumers, clinicians, and other health employees. This will ensure improved awareness and proficiency among both consumers and health employees to be able to utilise the tools effectively and to support leverage and avoid duplication across the state.

Specifically, consumers told us they wanted:

  • a consistent, strategic, state-wide approach to the development and promotion of decision-making resources,
  • consumer-friendly accessible design
  • communication tactics that support decision-making at every stage of the patient journey
  • Content that answers why, how and when to ask questions to support consumer healthcare decisions.
  • Information on next steps or where to go for more information.
  • Support and information for healthcare professionals.
  • Reviewing new decision-making resources or content with consumers to make sure they meet their needs, are engaging and follow the WHO communication principles.

The outcomes provide SCB with a set of communication principles which outline an approach that recognises the importance of decision-making tools, the need to raise awareness of them across the state and the support and engagement required to ensure their effectiveness, uptake and usage.

SCB have produced this factsheet which summarises what consumers want from decision-making resources. Consumer representatives can use this information to encourage their health service to adopt the Principles when developing new decision-making resources and content for consumers.