What is The Information Standard

Across England, thousands of organisations produce health and care information for the public which varies greatly in terms of quality and reliability.  So how can the public tell whether information is truth or myth?

The Information Standard is a certification programme for all organisations producing evidence-based health and care information for the public. Any organisation achieving The Information Standard has undergone a rigorous assessment of the information production process to check ensure that the information they produce is high quality, evidence based, balanced, user-led, clear and accurate.

The Standard comprises 6 principles with underpinning requirements, informed by best practice for producing good quality usable information. Organisations wishing to join the scheme must be able to demonstrate, with supporting evidence, how they meet these requirements:

The Information Standard Principles with descriptors

Information Production – you have a defined and documented process for producing high quality information – This principle is designed to demonstrate that your organisation has a process in place to produce good quality health and care information in a consistent manner.

Evidence Sources – you only use current, relevant and trustworthy evidence sources – This principle is designed to ensure that where evidence is used is it relevant and from a recognised source. You need to demonstrate that you have a process in place for defining and then prioritising which evidence you use. Where evidence is used it must:

  • Come from a recognised source that you organisation has approved
  • Be accurately referenced
  • Be balanced to reflect the weight and quality of evidence available and clearly identify any uncertainties and unknowns
  • The final product must be peer reviewed by a suitable person to confirm the context, content and quality of the evidence

User understanding and involvement – you understand your users and you user-test your information – This principle is designed to ensure that health and care information that is being produced has the needs and views of the people using it at its heart. It is based on two premises:

  • You need to be clear about who the information is designed for, why it is required and that you understand their needs.
  • Health and care information needs to reflect the needs and views of those using it and they are the best people to ensure this. This user involvement should be representative of the target audience and involve an appropriate number of such people (dependent on the product and the target audience size)

User involvement and testing should begin at a sufficiently early time of the information production process to ensure that there is time to make necessary changes.

End Product – you confirm that your finished information product has been developed following your process and is of good quality – this principle is designed to ensure a final review process for each and every information product to ensure that it has been developed following your process so that it complies with the requirements and key elements of the Information Standard and meets recognised best practice.

Feedback – you manage comments/complaints/incidents appropriately – this principle is designed to ensure that all feedback is dealt with appropriately especially concerning errors, omissions or points for clarification. Your process should ensure that feedback is recorded, actioned and resolved as appropriate, especially if an amendment to your information product is required.

Review – you review your products and your process on a planned and regular basis – this principle is designed to ensure that your information products are reviewed on a planned and regular basis, within a timeframe appropriate to the type of information, not normally less than every three years. This includes existing information products in scope created prior to certification which will have three years from certification to review them under your certified process. Any products that are not reviewed within your defined review periods should no longer be distributed. In addition you should review your information production process on a planned and regular basis.

The Information Standard Principles (with descriptors) and underpinning requirements

Information Production – you have a defined and documented process for producing high quality information – This principle is designed to demonstrate that your organisation has a process in place to produce good quality health and care information in a consistent manner.

Requirements:

a: You have a documented process for producing information that ensures you meet the Information Standard process elements below:

  • You identify your target audience and their needs and give consideration to health literacy levels for each information product
  • Your evidence is derived from appropriate sources and is presented in a balanced manner.
  • You involve your target audience/end users in the production and incorporate their input, as appropriate
  • You peer review each product
  • You design each product to be accessible by the target audience (as far as budgets allow).
  • You check conflicts of interest on/for each product
  • Each product is approved for publication by a final authorised approver(s)
  • You reference or signpost to your evidence sources for each product
  • Each product features the production/last review date and the next review due date
  • It is clear to end users how to give feedback on each product
  • Each product is in plain language, free from spelling or grammatical errors and jargon; medical terms are explained where necessary.
  • For certified organisations, the Information Standard logo is displayed and used correctly

b: All of your public facing health and care information within scope goes through that process and therefore meets the key required elements listed above.

c: All those involved in the information production process understand your process and follow it.

Evidence sources – you only use current, relevant and trustworthy evidence sources – This principle is designed to ensure that where evidence is used is it relevant and from a recognised source. You need to demonstrate that you have a process in place for defining and then prioritising which evidence you use. Where evidence is used it must:

  • Come from a recognised source that you organisation has approved
  • Be accurately referenced
  • Be balanced to reflect the weight and quality of evidence available and clearly identify any uncertainties and unknowns
  • The final product must be peer reviewed by a suitable person to confirm the context, content and quality of the evidence

Requirements:

a: Your organisation has its own approved list and/or guidelines for evidence sources to support your information production and these are reviewed and updated annually.

b: You use your approved list or guidelines to assure that your end product:

  • is current and relevant
  • is a balanced account
  • identifies any uncertainties in the evidence or unknowns

c: The content, context and quality of the evidence within your information product have been checked by a suitable peer reviewer(s) that you must identify as suitable given the context.

d: If you are re-using certified information from another Information Standard organisation, you must manage the content of your product in line with the original source review timeframes.

User understanding and involvement – you understand your users and you user-test your information – This principle is designed to ensure that health and care information that is being produced has the needs and views of the people using it at its heart. It is based on two premises:

  • You need to be clear about who the information is designed for, why it is required and that you understand their needs.
  • Health and care information needs to reflect the needs and views of those using it and they are the best people to ensure this. This user involvement should be representative of the target audience and involve an appropriate number of such people (dependent on the product and the target audience size)

User involvement and testing should begin at a sufficiently early time of the information production process to ensure that there is time to make necessary changes.

Requirements:

a: You identify your target audience and their needs and give consideration to health literacy levels for each information product

b: You involve your target audience/end users in the production and incorporate their input, as appropriate

End Product – you confirm that your finished information product has been developed following your process and is of good quality – this principle is designed to ensure a final review process for each and every information product and to ensure that it has been developed following your process so that it complies with the requirements and key elements of the Information Standard and meets recognised best practice.

  • For each product, you have a method for assuring (and evidencing) that you have complied with the Information Standard process elements below:
    • You identify your target audience and their needs and give consideration to health literacy levels for each information product
    • Your evidence is derived from appropriate sources and is presented in a balanced manner.
    • You involve your target audience/end users in the production and incorporate their input, as appropriate
    • You peer review each product
    • You design each product to be accessible by the target audience (as far as budgets allow).
    • You check conflicts of interest on/for each product
    • Each product is approved for publication by a final authorised approver(s)
    • You reference or signpost to your evidence sources for each product
    • Each product features the production/last review date and the next review due date
    • It is clear to end users how to give feedback on each product
    • Each product is in plain language, free from spelling or grammatical errors and jargon; medical terms are explained where necessary.
    • For certified organisations, the Information Standard logo is displayed and used correctly.

Feedback – you manage comments/complaints/incidents appropriately – this principle is designed to ensure that all feedback is dealt with appropriately especially concerning errors, omissions or points for clarification. Your process should ensure that feedback is recorded, actioned and resolved as appropriate, especially if an amendment to your information product is required

Requirements:

  • For each product, you have a mechanism for enabling feedback
  • You record all types of feedback and have a standard process for dealing with them
  • You have a process for ensuring that information products are updated where necessary.

Review – you review your products and your process on a planned and regular basis – this principle is designed to ensure that your information products are reviewed on a planned and regular basis, within a timeframe appropriate to the type of information, not normally less than every three years. This includes existing information products in scope created prior to certification which will have three years from certification to review them under your certified process. Any products that are not reviewed within your defined review periods should no longer be distributed. In addition you should review your information production process on a planned and regular basis.

Requirements:

a: You have a planned regular review schedule for your information products in line with their review dates and a planned review schedule for your information production process.

b: You have a version control and archiving process in place for both products and supporting documents.