Explain and Motivate Use of Comparative Information

Clear and usable data displays help consumers make sense out of a quality report, but even the best displays are not sufficient on their own. Report sponsors need to provide additional material to:

  • Explain what’s in the report and how to use it.
  • Motivate people to use the information.

This section discusses:

Caveat: You Can’t Cover Everything

Despite the importance of providing some background information for quality data, sponsors need to recognize that no report can include all the explanatory material you might want to offer. This is one of the great challenges of constructing a report card: Without some explanation, people will not understand the data. But if you provide too much of an explanation, people won't bother to read anything.

How you handle this trade-off between keeping the document short enough to be manageable and informative enough to be useful depends on several factors, including your audience and the medium you decide to use. For example, an audience already familiar with the issues may not need much context. Or you may want to use the Web as a way to offer access to explanatory material without burdening the reader who wants to skip it.

Testing Is Essential

While this section offers many suggestions about how to explain quality information and motivate users, you will almost certainly be developing a lot of new language of your own to fit your circumstances. For these reasons, it is critical to test this material with people like those in your audience before you issue your report. The most appropriate method to use is cognitive interviewing, in which you spend 60 to 90 minutes going through pieces of your report with an individual and asking them questions to find out:

  • Do they understand what you are saying and why?
  • Do they understand why the material is there in the first place?

You can also use cognitive testing to explore alternative ways of talking about a particular issue, to see which one people understand more readily. Finally, use testing to make sure that your language and message do not offend your consumer audience, especially if they have culture-specific health beliefs.

Learn more about The Purpose and Process of Cognitive Testing.

Page last reviewed July 2016
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Explain and Motivate Use of Comparative Information. Content last reviewed July 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/talkingquality/create/explain/index.html