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Communicating risks and benefits to cardiology patients
  1. Gabriel Recchia,
  2. Alexandra Freeman
  1. Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alexandra Freeman, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB3 0WA, UK; alex.freeman{at}

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Trying to explain potential outcomes, and their likelihoods, is a challenge. Indeed, patients who just had a catheterization procedure remember few of the related risks and benefits.1 Patients are often unfamiliar with the terminology, and vary widely in health status, numeracy, health literacy and information preferences. Complicating things further is the difficulty of ensuring that patients understand the ‘material risks’ for them as individuals: a matter not only of probability but also of the impact it could have on them personally.

This task is not only an ethical imperative but also a legal one, enshrined in law in many countries, such as the 2015 Montgomery judgement in the UK (figure 1). At the Winton Centre, our research into how individuals understand risk aims to offer a few considerations and recommendations to help clinicians achieve this.

Figure 1

Conclusions of the Supreme Court in Montgomery v. Lanarkshire Health Board, Lords Kerr and Rees.

Communicating numbers

In a recent series of surveys covering more than 12 000 people and 12 countries, we asked the question ‘Which of the following numbers represents the biggest risk of getting a disease: 1 in 100, 1 in 1000, or 1 in 10?’. One …

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