Communicating risks

How to communicate risk presents its own problems, with different conclusions being reached by doctors and their patients depending on how the information is presented in terms of relative or absolute risk.21 Even when the risks are understood, weighing up the pros and cons of an intervention is a highly variable affair. Not only does this depend on the type of information presented to the patient, but also on the way the information is presented. Thus, a doctor who believes that a patient with psoriasis needs ciclosporin A may play down the possibility of permanent kidney damage by his or her body language and by saying that he or she has treated hundreds of patients without any problem. However, for another patient who has requested the same treatment, but for whom the doctor considers ciclosporin A inappropriate, he or she may use the very same potential adverse event as a "threat" to dissuade the patient.

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