Related Topics for the Design and Pilot Stage
Skill Sets in Communicating to Patients
Health Literacy and NumeracyGiven the commonness of low health literacy and numeracy, your care team can use the information and resources below to ensure that patients comprehend their options.
Health Literacy Tips:
- Use plain language. Avoid or define medical terms.
- Focus on the “need to know,” and avoid the “nice to know.” Too much information can easily overwhelm.
- Give patients easy-to-read handouts to take home with them, so they can remember what you’ve discussed.
- Use the teach-back technique. This is a quick and easy way to verify that the patient understands their medical information—a vital step in the decision-making process.
- Speak slowly, and listen carefully to the patient’s response.
Health Numeracy Tips:
- Know your patient’s preferred unit of measurement: “U.S. or metric?”
- Do the math for the learner
- Avoid percentages: Instead of 10%, say “10 in 100”
- Keep denominators constant: “10 in 100 patients will have a given side effect. 5 in 100 will have long-term problems.”
- Use words to qualify numbers: “There’s a low chance of having this side effect. It only happens in 5 out of 100 people.”
- Communicating risks and benefits
- Offer both negative and positive frames: “10 in 100 patients will have side effects. This means that 90 in 100 patients will have no side effects.”
- Clarify time lines: “These studies describe cancer recurrence rates over 10 years. We don’t know what recurrence rates look like after 20 or 30 years. We think your risk may decrease 20 years from now, but there will always be a chance of this coming back.”
- Discuss absolute risks/benefits, not relative risks/benefits Relative risk = exaggerated perceptions: “This treatment will double your cancer risk.” Absolute risk = more realistic perceptions: “With this treatment, 2 in 100 patients will get cancer. Without it, 1 in 100 patients will get cancer.” Note that cancer risk has doubled, but it is still very low.
- Use icon arrays. Icon arrays display nearly precise probability data while reducing errors of judgement, as they help remove emotion from the equation. Use icon arrays to compare baseline risk (or benefit) to risk/benefit with a specific intervention. Create free icon arrays at www.iconarray.com.