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Uncertainty: What It Is and Ways to Help (HLOL #213)

by | Jul 1, 2021

Paul Han, MD, MA, MPH is Senior Scientist in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences and Adjunct Investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Han’s research focuses on understanding and improving the communication and management of uncertainty in health care. His clinical background is in general internal medicine and palliative medicine.

In this podcast, Dr. Han talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Uncertainty is a conscious awareness of our own ignorance, explains Dr. Han. In other words, uncertainty is when we know that we don’t know something.
  • Uncertainty often makes people feel uncomfortable. Uncertainty can also offer a source of hope and possibility.
  • Ways to communicate uncertain information, in person and in writing.

More Ways to Learn:

  • Han PKJ, Uncertainty in Medicine: A Framework for Tolerance. Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • Han P, Scharnetzki E, Scherer A, Thorpe A, Lary C, Waterston L, Fagerlin A, Dieckmann N.“Communicating Scientific Uncertainty About the COVID-19 Pandemic: Online Experimental Study of an Uncertainty-Normalizing Strategy.”  J Med Internet Res 2021;23(4):e27832
  • Han PKJ, Strout TD, Gutheil C, Germann C, King B, Ofstad E, Gulbrandsen P, Trowbridge R. “How Physicians Manage Medical Uncertainty: A Qualitative Study and Conceptual Taxonomy.” Med Decis Making. 2021 Apr;41(3):275-291.
  • Han PK. “Conceptual, methodological, and ethical problems in communicating uncertainty in clinical evidence.” Med Care Res Rev. 2013 Feb;70(1 Suppl):14S-36S.
  • Han PK, Klein WM, Arora NK. “Varieties of uncertainty in health care: a conceptual taxonomy.” Med Decis Making. 2011 Nov-Dec;31(6):828-38.
  • Osborne, H. “The Ethics of Simplicity,” On Call Magazine, 2004.

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Especially relevant to this podcast is the chapter, “Ethics of Simplicity.”

Read the transcript of this podcast

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