10 tips for communicating risk to patients

Speaking to patients about risks is not always an easy conversation but it is a necessity.  Here are some tips which may help you:

  • Only tell patients what they need to know, personalise the benefits and risks you communicate to them.  Remember to speak about alternatives treatments too and having no treatment.
  • Start with the good news
  • x out of y people is a clear format people can understand
  • Percentages are often difficult for people to put into perspective
  • Try to present risk in a positive manner i.e. 1 out of 2 people don’t get any side effects from treatment
  • Record in your patient notes the information you give to patients
  • Be clear and concise
  • Allow your patient to ask questions
  • Check their understanding of what you have told them
  • Use spinal or joint models as appropriate

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