There is quite a bit of evidence about best ways to convey risk information to help with policy or clinical decision making. Pictographs and bar graphs along with numbers and descriptions are considered best. Some emerging research suggests that some elements will help some patients more than others (for instance people with low numeracy).
Recently, Fagerlin, Zikmund-Fisher and Ubel published their decalogue of risk communication in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Their ten steps to better risk communication were:
- Use plain language to make written and verbal materials more understandable.
- Present data using absolute risks.
- Present information in pictographs if you are going to include graphs.
- Present data using frequencies.
- Use an incremental risk format to highlight how treatment changes risks from preexisting baseline levels.
- Be aware that the order in which risks and benefits are presented can affect risk perceptions.
- Consider using summary tables that include all of the risks and benefits for each treatment option.
- Recognize that comparative risk information (eg, what the average person’s risk is) is persuasive and not just informative.
- Consider presenting only the information that is most critical to the patients’ decision making, even at the expense of completeness.
- Repeatedly draw patients’ attention to the time interval over which a risk occurs.
Taken from Mayo Clinic, Shared Decision making resource centre: http://shareddecisions.mayoclinic.org/2012/02/20/creating-shared-decision-making-visuals/