Background: consumers of health information in the USA must make treatment decisions based on a large amount of readily-available, unreliable health information. Furthermore, studies reveal that consumers often trust anecdotal information over research evidence, which is problematic because believing unreliable claims may lead consumers to pursue ineffective treatments, which delays improvement and wastes resources. Thus, improving a consumer's ability to appraise treatment claims critically based on the principles of evidence-based practice (EBP) is an important area for further research in the USA. Critical appraisal skills may be particularly important in mental healthcare given the field’s longstanding tolerance for pseudoscientific practices.
Objectives: this study begins to address a critical appraisal research gap in the USA by assessing the extent to which parents and undergraduate students in the USA currently engage in critical appraisal. This study also examines consumer characteristics associated with critical appraisal, and is phase 1 of a larger study that aims to develop a critical appraisal intervention for parents.
Methods: parents and undergraduate students were recruited online, and all study procedures were completed online. Critical appraisal abilities were assessed online using the Claim Evaluation Tools, a standardized battery of multiple-choice questions (Austvoll-Dahlgren et al., 2016; Austvoll-Dahlgren et al., 2017).
Results: parents (n = 144) were predominantly white (83%), with a mean age of 36, and 45% were female. We found that, despite this being a relatively educated sample (43% had a bachelor’s degree), parents struggled to engage in critical appraisal with an average proportion of correct responses of 0.64. Specifically, parents struggled to appraise claims critically based on the following EBP principles (percentages indicate proportion of correct responses):
1) comparisons are needed to identify effects (55%);
2) advantages should outweigh disadvantages (62%);
3) comparison groups need to be similar (63%);
4) common practice is not always evidence-based (64%);
5) single comparisons can be misleading (64%);
6) association is not causation (67%);
7) anecdotes are unreliable evidence (68%).
Undergraduate results will be included in poster presentation as data collection is ongoing until May 2019. Additionally, results including predictors of critical appraisal will be presented.
Conclusions: findings demonstrate a need for a critical appraisal intervention for parents in the USA, which will also be reviewed.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: parents and undergraduate students who are consumers of health information online were the sole participants in this study.