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Interpreting Health

Benefits and Risks

In this book, ‘Interpreting Health Benefits and Risks,’ the authors consider a variety of serious and common situations where bad decision-making makes overtreatment a critical risk. Useful, referenced, fair, and clear information is provided. A powerful technique is introduced that allows doctors and patients to talk as equals while working together in the examination room.


In patient-centered medicine, this timely guide to communication argues for better clarity in describing health risks versus benefits of a range of drug regimens, procedures, and screening tests. It details approaches physicians can use to prepare patients for collaborative decision-making based on meaningful, clear knowledge as well as informed choices—and reviews the growing trend towards patient’s involvement in their care, especially concerning chronic conditions. The chapters within ‘Interpreting Health Benefits and Risks’ book apply this lens to numerous common interventions, as widely prescribed as the annual physical and the daily aspirin—and as contentious as antibiotics and estrogen replacement therapy. Keeping this goal into consideration, the authors also came up with an innovative decision-making tool that translates benefits and risks into a clear graphic format. It substantially mitigates the instance of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Some of the topics covered include cholesterol, statins, and coronary heart disease; screening for and treating dementia; colon cancer screening with colonoscopy; prostate cancer screening; breast cancer screening – mammograms; BRCT (the Benefit/Risk Characterization Theater); toward a universal decision aid; and involving the patient in decision-making.


Since the ‘Interpreting Health Benefits and Risks’ book adds a unique and important dimension to existing efforts geared toward increasing meaningful patient-centered care, physicians in internal and family medicine will find this book a valuable resource for communication with patients – and new possibilities will emerge for working toward their better health and health education.

Why is doctor-patient communication

so important?

There’s no doubt that patient outcomes depend on successful communication. If a physician encourages open communication, they’ll have a higher chance of facilitating appropriate counseling, enhancing the prospect of a more accurate diagnosis, and obtaining more complete information, ultimately improving compliance with treatment plans that benefits long-term health.


Typically, this type of communication is known as the partnership model – negotiation and consensus-building between the physician and patient are used to increase patient involvement. In this participatory style of conversation, patients and physicians spend an equal amount of time talking, which reduces the chances of litigation and improves patient care. These are some reasons why doctor-patient communication has become an important area for practitioners to study and this is what the book ‘Interpreting Health Benefits and Risks’ focuses on.

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