Researchers explore effectiveness of animations for patient communications

The effectiveness of video animations used to provide information for patients and the general public has been explored in a paper published in Frontiers.

Through a systematic review, authors from the Department of Health Sciences, University of York and Hull York Medical School explored the value of video animations as a communication tool to patients, compared to printed materials, verbal consultations or static images.

The authors noted the challenge that “traditionally, information has been provided to patients through face-to-face clinical consultation, information leaflet (with or without images) or, in the case of some public health issues, short TV film. However, patients do not always understand what is being explained to them” and continued, “this problem is especially relevant for people with low health literacy”.

Changes to patient knowledge, attitudes and cognitions, and behaviours were measured in the study, focusing on how the animation explained medical or surgical procedure, management of long-term conditions, public health, health-promotion or illness-prevention.

The researchers assessed changes in knowledge in 30 studies “showing greater knowledge from animations in 19 studies” against a range of comparators.

Measuring changes to attitudes and cognitions, the researchers used “21 studies, and animations resulted in positive outcomes in six studies, null effects in 14 studies, and less positive outcomes than standard care in one study”.

Patient behaviours were assessed in nine studies, with “animations resulting in positive outcomes in four and null effects in the remainder”.

The authors stated: “Our findings indicate mostly positive effects on knowledge, particularly in the short-term, and some positive effects on attitudes and cognitions. They also indicate mostly positive effects on behaviour, although this outcome was evaluated in only nine trials. There is almost no evidence of worse patient outcomes from animations.”

However the researchers suggest a high element of bias in the study, and call for a larger sample size to research, to evaluate the use of animations in practice to assess the impact of context, and to study the length and design of animations for their effectiveness.

The study, Moe-Byrne T, Evans E, Benhebil N and Knapp P (2022) The effectiveness of video animations as information tools for patients and the general public: A systematic review. Front. Digit. Health 4:1010779. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2022.1010779, can be viewed here.