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Sources of information used by patients prior to elective surgery: a scoping review
  1. Alvin Atlas1,2,
  2. Steve Milanese1,
  3. Karen Grimmer1,
  4. Sarah Barras3,
  5. Jacqueline H Stephens4
  1. 1 International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia Division of Health Sciences, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2 Health Market Quality Research, Capital Markets CRC Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Australian Health Service Alliance, Camberwell, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4 Centre for Population Health Research, University of South Australia Division of Health Sciences, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Alvin Atlas; Alvin.Atlas{at}


Objective To describe the range and nature of available research regarding sources of information that patients access to inform their decisions about elective surgery.

Design Scoping review.

Data sources Peer-reviewed studies published until February 2019 from the six scientific literature databases were searched and included in the study: Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Academic Search Premier, EMBASE and SCOPUS. Web searches for grey literature were conducted in Google, South Australia Department of Health, Commonwealth Department of Health (Australia) and My Aged Care from the Department of Social Services (Australia).

Eligibility criteria Studies with a focus on elective surgery information sources oriented to patients were eligible for inclusion. Only studies written in English were sought and no publication date or study restrictions were applied.

Data extraction and synthesis Included literature was described by National Health and Medical Council hierarchy of evidence, and data were extracted on country and year of publication, type of literature, who provided it and any information on end users. Information sources were categorised by type and how information was presented.

Results A pool of 1039 articles was reduced to 26 after screening for duplicates and non-relevant studies. Face-to-face exchanges were the most likely source of information prior to elective surgery (59.3%), printed information (55.6%) followed by e-learning (51.9%) and multimedia (14.8%). The face-to-face category included information provided by the physician/general practitioners/specialists, and family and friends. Printed information included brochures and pamphlets, e-learning consisted of internet sites or videos and the use of multimedia included different mixed media format.

Conclusion There is considerable variability regarding the types of information patients use in their decision to undergo elective surgery. The most common source of health information (face-to-face interaction with medical personnel) raises the question that the information provided could be incomplete and/or biased, and dependent on what their health provider knew or chose to tell them.

  • health literacy [MeSH]
  • electivesurgical procedures [MeSH]
  • review [MeSH]
  • scoping review
  • consumer health information [MeSH]

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors AA, SM, KG, SB and JHS: involved in the conception and design of the study; contributed to the data analysis and synthesis, drafting and revision of the article and the final approval of the version for publication. AA and SM: performed the screening of the studies included in the review.

  • Funding This work was conducted as part of PhD candidature funded by a scholarship grant by the Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Health Service Alliance.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Requests for access to data should be addressed to the corresponding author.