Using Animated Computer-generated Text and Graphics to Depict the Risks and Benefits of Medical Treatment

Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Electronic address: .
The American journal of medicine (Impact Factor: 5). 08/2012; 125(11):1103-10. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2012.04.040
Source: PubMed


Conventional print materials for presenting risks and benefits of treatment are often difficult to understand. This study was undertaken to evaluate and compare subjects' understanding and perceptions of risks and benefits presented using animated computerized text and graphics.
Adult subjects were randomized to receive identical risk/benefit information regarding taking statins that was presented on an iPad (Apple Corp, Cupertino, Calif) in 1 of 4 different animated formats: text/numbers, pie chart, bar graph, and pictograph. Subjects completed a questionnaire regarding their preferences and perceptions of the message delivery together with their understanding of the information. Health literacy, numeracy, and need for cognition were measured using validated instruments.
There were no differences in subject understanding based on the different formats. However, significantly more subjects preferred graphs (82.5%) compared with text (17.5%, P<.001). Specifically, subjects preferred pictographs (32.0%) and bar graphs (31.0%) over pie charts (19.5%) and text (17.5%). Subjects whose preference for message delivery matched their randomly assigned format (preference match) had significantly greater understanding and satisfaction compared with those assigned to something other than their preference.
Results showed that computer-animated depictions of risks and benefits offer an effective means to describe medical risk/benefit statistics. That understanding and satisfaction were significantly better when the format matched the individual's preference for message delivery is important and reinforces the value of "tailoring" information to the individual's needs and preferences.

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