A lot has been happening with AFP's patient information process since the last time we updated you on plans for enhancing this resource for physicians. While the work that AFP staff has done in publishing patient information handouts over the past decade established the roots for the editorial process involved in developing handouts, the process is continually evolving and growing stronger. We've made many changes in just the past year, and we'd like to tell you a little about them.
In July 1999, Robert B. Kelly, M.D., joined the staff of AFP as a contributing editor in charge of overseeing the patient information handouts published in the journal. Dr. Kelly had previously worked on other patient information projects for the AAFP, and taking on a broader role in reviewing AFP's patient information handouts was a logical step for him. Dr. Kelly's efforts have become an important part of the physician review process for AFP's patient information.
The process of developing patient information for AFP is remarkably complex for what seems like a simple outcome: one- or two-page discussions of various health problems targeted to reach patients with an average reading level. Typically, handouts are written by the same physician authors who have written a clinical review article and who draw on their practical experience with patients. Occasionally, pieces are written by AAFP patient information writers or are adapted from other sources. Although the authors lay the groundwork for the final piece, that's just the beginning of the process.
Patient information handouts first go through a review by the AFP medical editor who reviews the related article. Next, patient information handouts are sent to the editorial staff at the AAFP headquarters, where a staff manuscript editor initiates a cascade of reviews. Patient information handouts are sent at that time to Dr. Kelly for a specialized medical editor review and are also sent to the AAFP Special Projects editorial department, which starts a completely separate review process. Handouts are sent out for review by a panel of physicians and lay readers, and evaluations are returned to the manuscript editor.
Feedback from Dr. Kelly and the other reviewer panels is then assimilated—but that's not all. Handouts are also routed to a panel of editors from the AFP and Special Projects editorial departments, who work intensively to ensure an easy read for patients. Illustrations are supplied by Kathryn Born, a freelance artist based in Texas.
Are patient information handouts really worth all that effort? We hope so. Our goal is to provide physicians with the best possible materials for their patients and, so far, the response has been favorable. Patient information handouts that are published in the journal are also included on AFP's Web site (www.aafp.org/afp), and many of them also appear on the AAFP's publically oriented patient information Web site (www.familydoctor.org), which recently won the Silver Award in the Spring 2000 World Wide Web Health Awards Program.
The AAFP Special Projects editorial department and the AFP editorial department are also collaborating on the development of patient information collections—groups of handouts on related topics—to be published in the upcoming year. We hope you will watch for these and other patient information handouts in AFP.