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Graphics- Helps Bridge Gaps in Patients’ Understanding of Medical Condition

Often, there is a disconnect between what the doctor communicates and the patient’s level of comprehension. Sometimes this gap is so wide//, that crucial decisions about treatment choices could go off mark because of this gap in grasping the implications of the diagnosis and treatment.

Researchers feel the use of certain graphics by doctors will help bridge these gaps in understanding, where pictures can support text or verbal information. Researchers are now testing the efficacy of pictures, squares, colored dots and simple charts on patient decision regarding treatment options.

It is not uncommon to hear families of patients, complain that their concerns about treatments were not addressed well enough. Statistics has revealed that one-third of families who have lost their dear ones to illnesses, most often blame doctors for miscommunicating treatment information.

Jessica Ancker, a Ph.D. student in the department of biomedical informatics at Columbia University Medical Center is developing tools, which she calls as the'100-person diagram.' Designed to help patients understand the nuances of medical diagnoses and treatment options, these tools will equip them to appreciate the risks and gains of the envisaged treatment.

'There's an assumption in our culture that people should be able to make an informed choice. But I don't think they really can unless they really understand what those probabilities mean at least at some level. When an expert tells a patient, ‘I don't know if you're going to get diabetes, but people with your diet, your weight and your lifestyle have a certain probability of developing diabetes,' at what level do people understand what that means?' Ancker said.

Medical graphics is currently being tested in the United States. In the mean time, doctors have been advised to motivate patients to seek clarification from their doctors to the extent and frequency desired, so that they will have no reason to regret their decisions later on. /

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