Lisa M. Schwartz, MD, MS; Steven Woloshin, MD, MS
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Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. Numeracy. Ann Intern Med. 1998;128:783. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-128-9-199805010-00030
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1998;128(9):783.
We are pleased by Dr. Blank's interest in our study. We agree that the issue of physician numeracy merits attention. We do not know of any studies specifically assessing physician's facility with numbers or ability to communicate quantitative information about disease risk or treatment benefit. Although higher levels of educational attainment are related to better quantitative ability , even highly educated people may have difficulty with basic numerical concepts. In our study, for example, only 10 of 31 women with postgraduate degrees answered all three numeracy questions correctly. In the National Adult Literacy Survey, 11% of respondents who reported graduate degrees scored in the two lowest quintiles of quantitative literacy. Although research has focused on other aspects of physician–patient communication, evaluation of the effectiveness of communication of probabilistic information is an important area for future work.
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