(66) Showing how side effects change over time

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It is very hard to show patients how risks vary over time and how those time patterns themselves differ between options. This image illustrates this problem using the case of prostate cancer treatment. It tries to visually explain how likely a patient is to experience each of 2 common side effects with each of 2 different treatment options over multiple timepoints.

What’s special about this image?

This image uses a matrix of bar charts to present a lot of information at once. The vertical position corresponds to problem type, while horizontal position and bar color indicates treatment type.

Note also the numerical display of each risk number at the top of the corresponding bar. This helps viewers to read the exact level of risk without having to refer over to the (relatively small) axis labels on the right side of the graphic.

This image consistently outperformed other images on a variety of gist knowledge questions. As a result, we recommend this approach for risk communication tasks of this type.
  • My goal
  • Risk tradeoffs
  • Differences in likelihood
  • Details or gist?
  • Gist understanding
  • Data I have
  • Risk estimate
  • Risk over time
  • Health conditions
  • Cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Side effects
  • Treatment choice
  • Graphic type
  • Tables
  • Bar graph