How information about other people's personal experiences can help with healthcare decision-making: a qualitative study

Vicki A. Entwistle, Emma F. France, Sally Wyke, Ruth Jepson, Kate Hunt, Sue Ziebland, Andrew Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate people's views of using ‘general facts’ and information about other people's ‘personal experiences’ for health-related decision-making.

Methods: Sixty-two people, who between them had experience of five different focal health issues, participated in 12 focus groups and 9 interviews. Exploration of uses of the two types of information was supported by discussion of illustrative excerpts.

Results: There was less discussion of ‘general facts’; participants thought it obvious that good decisions required these. Participants reported having used ‘personal experiences’ information to: recognise decisions that needed consideration; identify options; appraise options and make selections (including by developing and reflecting on their reasoning about possible choices); and support coping strategies. Their inclination to use ‘personal experiences’ information was apparently moderated by assessments of personal relevance, the motives of information providers and the ‘balance’ of experiences presented.

Conclusion: People can use ‘personal experiences’ information in various ways to support their decision-making, and exercise some discrimination as they do.

Practice implications: ‘Personal experiences’ information may help people in a number of ways in relation to decision-making. However, ‘personal experiences’ information does not replace the need for ‘general facts’ and care should be taken when it is used in resources for patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e291-e298
Number of pages8
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011



  • experiential information
  • patient's narratives
  • decision-making
  • screening decisions
  • treatment decisions

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