Reimagining Help Guide: The right information at the right time

Why is the right information at the right time important? Providing high-quality and easy-to-digest information at the right time helps people to feel in control during challenging times. Timing is everything - the right information at the wrong time can overwhelm people or cause distress, which could lead to them avoiding or withdrawing from much-needed support.

People should be able to access accurate information that helps them to feel informed and in control of their health and wellbeing when they need it. It should include consideration of:

  • Timing and type of information: Rather than giving people standard information at set points in their health journey, there should be opportunities to tailor information to what is needed at different points. This can be achieved by asking people what information they want, in how much detail, and when and how they want it. For example, post-diagnosis, some people may want lots of information straight away, but others may want time to process the diagnosis and involve their family and friends before finding out more.
  • Language: When information is communicated (verbally or in written form), it should be done in a way that is non-technical and empathetic and that does not exacerbate anxiety. Some medical terms may induce more anxiety than others - for example, a diagnosis of ‘heart failure’. When sharing information, an individual's communication needs should be taken into account - for example, people with learning disabilities may benefit from easy-read formats, or the support of an advocate.

Having the right information at the right time:

  • Increases capability for behaviour change by ensuring that people are able to understand and act upon information when they are ready. Education and skills-based interventions are more likely to be effective when people can access information at different points in their behaviour change journey.
  • Increases motivation by making sure that information provided is in line with the individual’s emotional state. When people are experiencing strong feelings of anxiety, they may not be in a position to retain lots of factual information, so this may be better provided when the person feels more able to take on board new information.

  • Asking people open-ended questions like ‘what can I tell you right now that would be helpful?’ will create opportunities for people to let practitioners know what they need from an interaction.
  • Trusted health forums or helplines with specialist advisors that provide access to instant support at a time and place that suits people - for example, the British Heart Foundation’s helpline and Macmillan’s support line.
  • The University of Edinburgh has designed an interactive mobile app to support parents and carers of children undergoing assessments for autism. The app automatically generates information based on individual preferences- for example, information on diagnosis, treatment options, lifestyle changes and local support groups.
  • Rather than prescribed sessions, organisations like Off The Record Bristol run drop-in days called ‘hubs’, which give young people the flexibility to access information and support at moments that suit them.
  • Groundswell uses a peer advocacy model in which volunteers who have experienced homelessness support others to manage their health and wellbeing more independently. Peer advocates can share information in a non-medical way based on their own experiences.

Using the information above, start to brainstorm ideas to try out in your organisation or community. Think about how to co-design ideas with other practitioners and people in the local community who could benefit from Good Help. Use the map below to help you test and develop your ideas.

A guide to refining and testing your ideas against the evidence and common pitfalls

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