Communicating Medical Risk

How can visual communication help health literacy, for professionals and patients?

Taught by David Macaulay, Ali Zarrabi, and Fred Shiffman.     •    Spring 2012

Communicating Medical Risk was a course linking RISD and Brown with the intent to improve visual and health literacy for patients and health care professionals. It was designed with the belief that a collaborative effort between designers, humanists and physicians can provide a unique opportunity to develop strategies that can improve the health care sector, particularly the patient-doctor encounter. A select group of students from both institutions worked to create medical “decision aids”: tools designed to assist patients making value-based decisions about their health, particularly decisions involving weighing the risks and benefits of a medical intervention. In order to create effective decision aids, students strengthened their own general biomedical-statistical literacy using a multidisciplinary approach involving lectures and discussion in evidence-based medicine, medical statistics, and the social science of medicine. Students shadowed physicians in clinic to directly witness the doctor-patient encounter. With exposure to clinical settings, the students could understand better how decision aids can function.

The class was able to work closely with the Warren Alpert Medical School and nearby Miriam Hospital.