The Paling Palettes©

Paling Palettes were designed to address the special needs of health professionals. Although the general public rarely understands it, most risks that patients encounter are massively more likely that the “worries of the week and the molecules of the moment” that the public hears about in the non-healthcare arena.

The concept and designs of Paling Palettes seem blindingly obvious now but were in fact developed and tested in a series of progressive improvements as we tried to adapt the Paling Perspective Scales for healthcare. The resulting Palette designs have been tested with patients in genetic counseling scenarios and the results were outstandingly positive. Patients unanimously stated that they rated the palettes over all other ways that we attempted to communicate risks.

Benefits for Doctors

Paling Palettes offer so many benefits for doctors that we strongly believe that it should be kept on hand for most informed consents.

Doctors who use Palettes are improving the chances of their patients understanding their risks as well as deepening the bond of partnership with their patients.

Paling Palettes achieve the following benefits:

  1. They cost effectively nothing, take no more of the doctor’s time and give better results
  2. Patients of all ages, languages and different national backgrounds immediately see and understand the level of likelihood that is being communicated.
  3. Patients simultaneously see the positive and the negative predicted outcomes. (This is very important since patients react differently to a choice when the outcomes are presented from a positive (eg 97% surviving) or a negative perspective (3% chance of dying).
  4. It is intuitively understood by patients (not involving a logarithmic format)
  5. Doctors can use it as a social lubricant as they sit side by side with their patients.
    The original purpose of the scale was to help patient understanding but with our experience of their use we see that probably as great a benefit is the social lubricant effect. The fact that something physical and relevant can be shared with patients is a prime opportunity for deepening bonds of trust and partnership.
  6. Using Paling Palettes actually delivers “information” in informed consent- not just “data”.
  7. Paling Palettes can serve as the main basis for all informed consent discussions. (In Paling’s opinion, Palettes should be the basic visual tool to aid in informed consent). Risks such as general anesthesia would feature as “less that 1 in a 1000” and could be grouped with others as such.)

Much more information is available in the book Helping Patients Understand Risks. How to help patients understand risks.


Here are some Paling Palettes in use in healthcare care contexts
People can download blank, template versions of these scales for their own purposes.
Palette One
Palette Two

If you would like us to customize our communications tools to focus on your own needs, or if you would like to inquire about John Paling speaking at your next meeting, please contact us.
The Risk Communication Institute
5822 N.W. 91st Blvd.
Gainesville, FL 32653
(352) 377-2142