How does the way that information is presented potentially influence patients' consent for health treatments, in a shared decision making process? The goal of this paper is to present an overview of selected recent literature concerning patient health information presentation/use for treatment decision making. Recent work with patient populations has begun to extend early cognitive psychological work showing systematic biases in thinking. Key research findings are organized by type of format (probability, graphic, and qualitative/quantitative dimensions). The applied literature on this topic is amenable to only limited integration in regard to key findings, and relatively few novel approaches to improving information comprehension have been described in the health literature. Promising approaches being proposed, developed, and tested are described, such as enhanced-access computerized patient choice modules, "debiasing" techniques, and tailoring of information. Additional theoretical and practical issues are discussed, as well as selected policy implications of current knowledge. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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