Utilization of Design Elements of Personalized Cancer Risk Assessments to Enhance Patient Understanding and Self-Efficacy

Prey, Jennifer, Systems Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Scherer, William, Department of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Virginia
Cohn, Wendy, PBHS Public Health Sciences Admin, University of Virginia

The current healthcare environment is ripe with the development of new technological resources like electronic medical records and family health history tools. Additionally, further research has been conducted in to how genetic composition and prior health history can affect patient health risk. With the combination of new tools and genetic knowledge, there is now the ability to determine whether individuals are at risk for certain diseases and types of cancer. Determining how to best communicate this type of health risk information to people is a complicated task. General public literacy is low complicating communication. Additionally, with health information there is the further impediment of often complex and unfamiliar medical terms and operations, and different levels of success with each type of treatment making it difficult to know which actions are best in each situation. The utilization of a personalized risk report will be beneficial only if a person is able to understand what is being presented and feel confident that s/he can and should take the actions as recommended. This study investigated how varying design aspects of a risk report from a cancer risk assessment program, Health Heritage, impact the perceived levels of understanding and confidence in taking the recommended actions (self-efficacy) of patients. Three specific design attributes were chosen to study: the inclusion of a summary, use of icons to depict recommended activities, and the inclusion of icons depicting the process steps to complete the recommended activities. Results of this study demonstrate that patients prefer to receive information in both textual and graphical forms, and that the inclusion of action-oriented steps to perform a recommendation increased perceived understanding and the likelihood of the individual intending to complete the act.

MS (Master of Science)
health risk communication, self-efficacy, health communication design
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