Recommendations for using DISCERN scores as part of a public information service:
Many major organisations responsible for providing health information and advice to the public are now using and publishing DISCERN scores as an index of information quality. We welcome such initiatives and are also keen to ensure that, by using DISCERN to review materials, they are providing a reliable service to both information users and producers. The review process must therefore be of a high standard and transparent.
We recommend the following as a model of good practice for major organisations using DISCERN and DISCERN scores to advise the public on the quality of written health information on treatment choices.
A written protocol outlining the review process should be developed and made publicly available.
The review process should be overseen and co-ordinated by a member of staff with training and experience in using DISCERN. This coordinator should be named in the protocol and in any subsequent publications using DISCERN scores.
New DISCERN reviewers should undergo basic training with the coordinator or another experienced DISCERN reviewer, or should attend a DISCERN workshop. New reviewers should complete a practice run of a set number of materials which are checked and discussed with the coordinator before contributing to a formal review process.
A formal review process should involve at least two reviewers working independently. Differences in scoring should be resolved in consultation with the coordinator. Where only one reviewer is available, continuous monitoring by the coordinator should be conducted to ensure consistently high standards and to identify problem areas. In all cases, the review process should involve:
Details of issues arising during reviewing and monitoring should be recorded and reported regularly to the DISCERN project team. This will provide us with valuable feedback for the development of DISCERN and for targeted training.
DISCERN is also being used as a guide to quality standards during the development of consumer health information. We are currently identifying models of good practice and drafting guidelines for using DISCERN as part of a production protocol and welcome users’ views and experiences. Please forward comments or examples to Sasha Shepperd.
DISCERN Project Team