Background: connecting parents to research evidence is known to improve health decision making. However, guidance on how to develop effective knowledge translation (KT) tools, which synthesize child-health evidence into a form understandable by parents is lacking.
Objectives: the purpose of this study was to conduct a comparative usability analysis of three online KT tools to identify differences in tool effectiveness, identify which format parents prefer, and to better understand what factors affect usability for parents.
Methods: we evaluated a Cochrane Plain language summary (PLS), blogshot, and a Wikipedia page, on a specific child-health topic (acute otitis media). We used a mixed-methods approach, involving a knowledge test, written usability questionnaire, and a semi-structured interview. We analyzed differences in knowledge and usability questionnaire scores for each of the KT tools using Kruskal-Wallis tests, considering a critical significance value of P = 0.05. We used thematic analysis to synthesize and identify common parent preferences among the semi-structured interviews. We derived key elements that parents wanted in a KT tool through author consensus using questionnaire data and parent interviews.
Results: 16 parents (9 female) aged 39.6 ± 11.9 years, completed the study. Parents preferred the blogshot over the PLS and Wikipedia page (P = 0.002) and found the blogshot to be the most aesthetic (P = 0.001), and easiest to use (P = 0.001). Knowledge questions and usability survey data also indicated the blogshot was the most preferred and effective KT tool at relaying information about the topic. Four key themes derived from thematic analysis, describing elements parents valued in KT tools. Parents wanted tools that were 1) simple, 2) quick to access and use, 3) trustworthy, and 4) informed how to manage the condition. Out of the three KT tools assessed, blogshots were the most preferred by parents, and encompassed these four key elements.
Conclusions: it is important that child-health evidence be available in formats accessible and understandable by parents to improve decision making, use of healthcare resources, and health outcomes. Further usability testing of different KT tools should be conducted involving broader populations and other conditions (e.g. acute versus chronic) in order to generate guidelines to improve KT tools for parents.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: here we disseminated three online KT tools for evaluation by parents (our key knowledge user/consumer). We then engaged with these parents on how best to design and develop KT tools which meet their unique needs. We initially engaged directly with our parent advisory group for this work, and then from their suggestions and networks invited other parents to participate.