The Virtual Information Consult (VIC) Study

Skip Breadcrumb HomeResearchOur StudiesThe Virtual Information Consult (VIC) Study
Core Research Area
eHealth Research
Principal Investigator
Janet Papadakos
Background and Study Rationale
When patients are given information that they need, it will help reduce their anxiety, increase their satisfaction with their treatment choice, and improve their ability to cope. However, patients and their families do not always know what information they need or how to get it. There is a lot of health information available, especially online, but they are not written in plain language. So even if people can find the information they need, they may not be able to use it. At the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, patients, staff and all visitors can find health information at the Patient and Family Library located on the main floor. With her expertise in cancer and health resources, the librarian offers information consults to patients. During these consults, the librarian helps patients figure out what information might help them through their cancer care and experience. Information consults takes only a short moment and patients leave with resources that are tailored to their needs. Unfortunately, this service is only available in the Library. Many patients, family members and staff at the Princess Margaret wanted this service to be available online. To do this, the Patient Education team had to really understand what information consults are, how they work and how to build the website so it is easy to use and clear to patients. The Patient Education team decided to do a qualitative, instrumental case study and called it the Virtual Information Consult (VIC) study. This project was funded by the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

Study Purpose
The aim of the study was to understand:
1. How patients looked for information. This will inform us on how to design the website.
2. The language style and wording patients use to describe what health information they needed. This will inform the language style and wording we will use on the website to ensure it is easy to use and clear to patients.
3. What information and resources are given to patients in consults. This will inform us on what information and types of resources should be available online. 

The study population included Princess Margaret patients, the Patient & Family librarian and her volunteers. We used 5 different methods to collect data about information consults:
1. Ethnography: We observed the librarian and library volunteers for 3 days and watched them perform 55 information consults.
2. Key informant interviews: The librarian and library volunteers were interviewed about their information consult process and experience.
3. Card-sorting: Card-sorting is a method used to identify the language that patients use and how they group information. Ten patients were given a stack of cards to sort into groups. Patients were given a stack of cards containing names of library resources with a short description of what they are. Patients sorted the cards into categories they believed the resources belong in.
4. Search request forms: Search requests are made when information consults cannot be fully addressed using the resources in the library. Instead, the librarian provides a professional-level search. Sixty-five past information requests were reviewed for the study.
5. Library shift logs: The library staff uses shift logs to track information and resources given to all library visitors. A total of 226 shift logs were reviewed.

Study Contact
Janet Papadakos or phone number 416-581-7679