David A. Nardone, MD (Retired)
Potential Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.
Nardone DA. Communicating Benefits and Harms of Treatment. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155:793. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-155-11-201112060-00016
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(11):793.
TO THE EDITOR:
After reading the article by Woloshin and Schwartz (1) on communicating risk, I reviewed a similar publication by the same authors (2). I do not disagree with the findings of either study, but I do believe that there is a problem with the choice of methods used to present scenarios to patients. The key is to use concrete and personalized images that give meaning to abstract concepts of benefit and harm (3).
Begin with using an appropriate frame of reference. If the denominator is 100, use the number of U.S. senators. If 1000, cite the number of soldiers in a battalion. If 10 000, use the capacity of the local AAA baseball team. If 100 000, refer to the attendance at the annual Ohio State University–Michigan football game.
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