Free online risk communication module released

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An open access, online module aimed at improving communication of risk has been released by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

The free e-module has been created to help clinicians develop their skills in communicating risks and benefits with their patients.

The module, ‘Helping patients make informed decisions: communicating benefits and risks‘ promotes shared decision making and risk communication in practice. It is currently available to members of some specialist colleges via their learning management systems.

The Commission’s clinical director, Dr Robert Herkes, said shared decision making underpins patient-centred care, which is a key dimension of safety and quality in health care.

“Clinicians need to communicate information about risk to patients on a daily basis,” Dr Herkes said. “And while communicating risks requires analysing and conveying complex information, few clinicians have training in how to do it effectively.”

He said clinicians needed to provide relevant and clear information about treatment options, including the potential benefits, risks, trade-offs and uncertainties of each option, to ensure patients could be actively involved in decisions about their health care.

The module has been jointly developed by the Commission with specialist colleges, education experts and medical writers, and has been user-tested with clinicians. It is designed to help clinicians communicate risks and benefits, including complex statistical information, so their patients can participate more fully in decision making about their health care.

“Health decisions often have no single ‘best choice’, so patients and their carers often need to make complex decisions and choose from multiple options,” Dr Herkes said.

Best practice shared decision making was based on information that not only reflected the best available evidence but also accounted for the personal opinions, preferences, values and priorities of patients.

The Commission has also released three short videos for clinicians on shared decision making. One provides an overview on shared decision making, the second challenges myths about shared decision making in practice, and the third explains how to use patient decision aids and where to find the

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