Introduction to tables

Tables provide fast and efficient readability across issues displayed in rows and columns. They can serve as a common means for benefit-risk communications because of their simple structure, flexibility and the ease with which they can be adapted. Tables can be very powerful as a communication tool, while also conveying a substantial amount of information. They can be used when communicating benefits and risks to all audiences including the general public, mass media, patients, doctors, regulators and other experts such as analysts.

The ability to comprehend a tabledepends on its verbal and numerical format. A statistical background may be requiredto understand tables representing summary statistics and specialist benefit-risk metrics. Likewise, tables loaded with medical terms require some medical knowledge to be understood. Structured tables can provide increased consistency and clarity to the decision problem. Good tables ease cognitive burdens of users and decrease the time required to extract the information. The amount of information appearing in a table should allow meaningful comparison to be made without being too exhaustive.Tables should be limited to requisite number of rows and columns to avoid adding cognitive burden when reading tables.

Tables sometimes are thought of as containing a list, which could give a false impression on benefit-risk balance because people tend to perceive a drug with a long list of risks as having unfavourable benefit-risk balance without taking into account the actual quantitative data. Hierarchies may be perceived when reading a table since the information appears by lines and inevitably would be read as such. Double-counting of events should also be made clear in tables to avoid misperception.

Tables can be easily produced in almost any software packages such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel where there are various layout templates. Tables may not gain much added value when used interactively unless a table is too large to fit on a page or if there is too much information to be compared. An example of an interactive drug comparison table can be seen on