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Does information form matter when giving tailored risk information to patients in clinical settings? A review of patients’ preferences and responses

Authors Harris R, Noble C, Lowers V

Received 24 October 2016

Accepted for publication 20 December 2016

Published 1 March 2017 Volume 2017:11 Pages 389—400


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen

Rebecca Harris, Claire Noble, Victoria Lowers

Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

Abstract: Neoliberal emphasis on “responsibility” has colonized many aspects of public life, including how health care is provided. Clinical risk assessment of patients based on a range of data concerned with lifestyle, behavior, and health status has assumed a growing importance in many health systems. It is a mechanism whereby responsibility for self (preventive) care can be shifted to patients, provided that risk assessment data is communicated to patients in a way which is engaging and motivates change. This study aimed to look at whether the form in which tailored risk information was presented in a clinical setting (for example, using photographs, online data, diagrams etc.), was associated with differences in patients’ responses and preferences to the material presented. We undertook a systematic review using electronic searching of nine databases, along with handsearching specialist journals and backward and forward citation searching. We identified eleven studies (eight with a randomized controlled trial design). Seven studies involved the use of computerized health risk assessments in primary care. Beneficial effects were relatively modest, even in studies merely aiming to enhance patient–clinician communication or to modify patients’ risk perceptions. In our paper, we discuss the apparent importance of the accompanying discourse between patient and clinician, which appears to be necessary in order to impart meaning to information on “risk,” irrespective of whether the material is personalized, or even presented in a vivid way. Thus, while expanding computer technologies might be able to generate a highly personalized account of patients’ risk in a time efficient way, the need for face-to-face interactions to impart meaning to the data means that these new technologies cannot fully address the resource issues attendant with this type of approach.

Keywords: risk, patient communication, personalisation, information, behavior change, health education

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