Open Access Open Badges Research article

Communicating effectiveness of intervention for chronic diseases: what single format can replace comprehensive information?

Henrik Stovring1*, Dorte Gyrd-Hansen23, Ivar S Kristiansen14, Jorgen Nexoe1 and Jesper B Nielsen2

Author Affiliations

1 Research Unit for General Practice, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

2 Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark

3 Danish Institute of Health Services Research, Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

4 Institute of Health Economics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-25

Published: 19 June 2008



There is uncertainty about how GPs should convey information about treatment effectiveness to their patients in the context of cardiovascular disease. Hence we study the concordance of decisions based on one of four single information formats for treatment effectiveness with subsequent decisions based on all four formats combined with a pictorial representation.


A randomized study comprising 1,169 subjects aged 40–59 in Odense, Denmark. Subjects were randomized to receive information in terms of absolute risk reduction (ARR), relative risk reduction (RRR), number needed to treat (NNT), or prolongation of life (POL) without heart attack, and were asked whether they would consent to treatment. Subsequently the same information was conveyed with all four formats jointly accompanied by a pictorial presentation of treatment effectiveness. Again, subjects should consider consent to treatment.


After being informed about all four formats, 52%–79% of the respondents consented to treatment, depending on level of effectiveness and initial information format. Overall, ARR gave highest concordance, 94% (95% confidence interval (91%; 97%)) between initial and final decision, but ARR was not statistically superior to the other formats.


Decisions based on ARR had the best concordance with decisions based on all four formats and pictorial representation, but the difference in concordance between the four formats was small, and it is unclear whether respondents fully understood the information they received.