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:
Online software to create pictographs can therefore be quite handy. Some do so without resorting to giving each “person like you” an anthropomorphic shape .
Our favorite however, is one that shows the outcomes showing visual cues that are easily relatable, based on the iconic smiley face. We are impressed by Dr. Chris Cates’ Visual Rx tool, which is a free online tool that creates “smiley face plots” to depict the impact of a treatment on 100 people.
~Victor Montori, MD