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How do People Use and View Infographics that Summarise Health and Medical Research? A Cross-Sectional Survey

Zadro, J. R., Ferreira, G. E., O'Keeffe, M., Stahl-Timmins, W., Elkins, M. R., & Maher, C. G. (2022). How do people use and view infographics that summarise health and medical research? A cross-sectional survey. BMC medical education, 22(1), 1-9.



With the increase in the use of social media as an avenue for scientific discourse, infographics are becoming increasingly popular as a means for representing health-related research. This study set out to better understand how people use infographics that represent primary data. The authors conducted an online cross-sectional survey of consumers of infographics that summarize health or medical research. They found that a majority of participants were somewhat/extremely likely to read the full-text article, although about half continue to use infographics as a substitute for reading the full-text article. This study emphasizes the importance of creating infographics that are sufficiently detailed and representative of the primary data.


December 2022



ES: With the COVID-19 pandemic, there was increased reliance on social media for dissemination of medical knowledge; how do you think that influenced the utilization of infographics? 

JZ: It's possible COVID-19 increased people's use of infographics as some other avenues for dissemination were used less, such as in-person conferences. However, I am not aware of any data that shows this. It is also possible infographics are naturally becoming more popular over time with the increased use of social media, independent of COVID-19.

ES: Your group previously published how most infographics are insufficient in reporting study findings and yet many people continue to use them as a surrogate for the research article itself. With social media enabling public distribution of short messages, what benefits and what harms do you see infographics providing for the wider community?

JZ: Some benefits of infographics include their ability to communicate research in a more user-friendly way, reduce the time burden of reading research papers, and help readers quickly decide whether to read a paper. Unfortunately, many infographics do not present enough information needed to interpret research appropriately and guide wise healthcare decisions. This is a big problem because many health professionals, researchers and patients are using infographics as a substitute for reading research articles. So in some cases, infographics may be doing more harm than good.

ES: What function do you see infographics playing in the scientific community in the future? Do you think guidelines should exist to regulate their posting on social media?

JZ: Given the quality of many infographics, there needs to be some guidance for infographic developers about what to include in them. Such guidance, which we are in the process of developing, could help them present research findings accurately and transparently, and improve the dissemination and implementation of high-quality research.

This guidance could also be used to help people know what is helpful (or not) to share on social media. 

ES: Given the evidence of infographics' ability to disseminate medical knowledge broadly, do you see a role for more structured training of physicians/scientists on how to present this data to peers and patients? 

JZ: Yes definitely. Training physicians and scientists on how to present research in infographics appropriately could improve the quality of infographics that are disseminated and may have a flow on effect to improving the quality-of-care patients receive. The guidance we are developing could be used as a part of a training program.


Blog Post Author

Emily Schwitzer

Emily Schwitzer is a second year pulmonary and critical care medicine fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. She completed her medical school training at Duke University and her internal medicine residency at UCLA. She hopes to use her passion for medical education to complement her clinical interests which include post-ICU care, global health, and evolutionary and comparative medicine.  

Twitter: @EmilySchwitzer


Article Author

Joshua Zadro

Dr Joshua Zadro is a Physiotherapist and NHMRC-funded research fellow. His research focuses on improving the accurate dissemination of research, improving access to musculoskeletal healthcare using eHealth, and reducing use of low-value care for back pain, shoulder pain, and knee osteoarthritis. He has published 82 journal articles, made over 60 conference presentations across leading national and international conferences in his field, and secured over $1.2M in research funding.

Twitter: @zadro_josh