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Practices and Barriers in Developing and Disseminating Plain-Language Resources Reporting Medical Research Information: A Scoping Review.

Patient 2024 June 16
BACKGROUND: The intent of plain-language resources (PLRs) reporting medical research information is to advance health literacy among the general public and enable them to participate in shared decision-making (SDM). Regulatory mandates coupled with academic and industry initiatives have given rise to an increasing volume of PLRs summarizing medical research information. However, there is significant variability in the quality, format, readability, and dissemination channels for PLRs. In this scoping review, we identify current practices, guidance, and barriers in developing and disseminating PLRs reporting medical research information to the general public including patients and caregivers. We also report on the PLR preferences of these intended audiences.

METHODS: A literature search of three bibliographic databases (PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science) and three clinical trial registries (NIH, EMA, ISRCTN registry) was performed. Snowball searches within reference lists of primary articles were added. Articles with PLRs or reporting topics related to PLRs use and development available between January 2017 and June 2023 were identified. Evidence mapping and synthesis were used to make qualitative observations. Identified PLRs were quantitatively assessed, including temporal annual trends, availability by field of medicine, language, and publisher types.

RESULTS: A total of 9116 PLRs were identified, 9041 from the databases and 75 from clinical trial registries. The final analysis included 6590 PLRs from databases and 72 from registries. Reported barriers to PLR development included ambiguity in guidance, lack of incentives, and concerns of researchers writing for the general public. Available guidance recommendations called for greater dissemination, increased readability, and varied content formats. Patients preferred visual PLRs formats (e.g., videos, comics), which were easy to access on the internet and used short jargon-free text. In some instances, older audiences and more educated readers preferred text-only PLRs. Preferences among the general public were mostly similar to those of patients. Psychology, followed by oncology, showed the highest number of PLRs, predominantly from academia-sponsored research. Text-only PLRs were most commonly available, while graphical, digital, or online formats were less available. Preferred dissemination channels included paywall-free journal websites, indexing on PubMed, third-party websites, via email to research participants, and social media.

CONCLUSIONS: This scoping review maps current practices, recommendations, and patients' and the general public's preferences for PLR development and dissemination. The results suggest that making PLRs available to a wider audience by improving nomenclature, accessibility, and providing translations may contribute to empowerment and SDM. Minimizing variability among available guidance for PLR development may play an important role in amplifying the value and impact of these resources.

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