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Use visual representations where they can explain better than words, or where they aid understanding

writingBut beware that pictures, tables and graphs can cause confusion and send out the wrong messages. Visual representations should be user tested. See the section of ‘involving users’ for more information and resources about how to do this.

Why is this important?

Visual displays can be a powerful tool to convey health-related statistical information… However, some caution is warranted as visual displays may not be intuitively understood by everyone… Overall, all visual aids should be pilot tested for understanding (not simply preferences), and developers should take care to avoid using misleading images (such as graphs with misleading scales).

Trevena L, Zikmund-Fisher B, Edwards A, et al., Presenting quantitative information about decision outcomes: a risk communication primer for patient decision aid developers. (2013.) 13(Suppl 2). BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.

The pictograms for the 10 different instructions and warnings showed great variation in interpretation rates...Pictograms have the potential to help patients understand information on drug therapy. This study shows that some existing pictograms are not easily interpreted and that testing is needed before their implementation.

Knapp P, Raynor DK, Jebar AH, Price SJ., Interpretation of medication pictograms by adults in the UK. (2005.) Jul-Aug;39(7-8):1227-33. Epub 2005 May 16.. Ann Pharmac other.
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Resources to support you

  • Coloured dots help people understand performance data

    This study looked at how different presentation formats influence patients’ comprehension and use of comparative performance information.

  • Communicating risk: illustrating risk

    A great way to help improve your users’ understanding of risk and statistics is to use visual aids in your content. This factsheet outlines some important points to think about.

  • Harding Center for Risk Literacy

    Harding Center for Risk Literacy has a range of factsheets on different health topics showing how to express risk clearly using different visual representations (Facts Boxes).

  • Beyond Words

    Books, leaflets and services for adults with learning disabilities, their family carers, support workers and other professionals. The website includes a series of health-related guides to screening and tests that use pictures as a central element of how they communicate information.

  • Visualizing Health

    Graphic displays of health information that have been tested to see which which ones made the most sense to the general public. Each image can be adapted for your own objectives.

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How have others done this?

doctor women screen

Using video in health and care

Case study contributed by Health and Care Videos www.healthandcarevideos.com/ February 2016 Using video in health and care – A short story from the Fracture Clinic Just imagine

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Pauline talks about how health information has helped her