True evidence-informed decision making in public health relies on incorporating evidence from a number of sources in addition to traditional scientific evidence. Lack of access to these types of data, as well as ease of use and interpretability of scientific evidence contribute to limited uptake of evidence-informed decision making in practice. An electronic evidence system that includes multiple sources of evidence and potentially novel computational processing approaches or artificial intelligence holds promise as a solution to overcoming barriers to evidence-informed decision making in public health.
To understand the needs and preferences for an electronic evidence system among public health professionals in Canada.
An invitation to participate in an anonymous online survey was distributed via listservs of two Canadian public health organizations. Eligible participants were English or French speaking individuals currently working in public health. The survey contained both multiple choice and open-ended questions about needs and preferences relevant to an electronic evidence system. Quantitative responses were analyzed to explore differences by public health role. Inductive and deductive analysis methods were used to code and interpret the qualitative data. Ethics review was not required by the host institution.
Respondents (n = 371) were heterogeneous, spanning organizations, positions, and areas of practice within public health. Nearly all (98.0%) respondents indicated that an electronic evidence system would support their work. Respondents had high preferences for local contextual data, research and intervention evidence, and information about human and financial resources. Qualitative analyses identified a number of concerns, needs, and suggestions for development of such a system. Concerns ranged from personal use of such a system, to the ability of their organization to use such a system. Identified needs spanned the different sources of evidence including local context, research and intervention evidence, and resources and tools. Additional suggestions were identified to improve system usability.
Canadian public health professionals have positive perceptions towards an electronic evidence system that would bring together evidence from the local context, scientific research, and resources. Elements were also identified to increase the usability of an electronic evidence system.