Can patients interpret health information? An assessment of the medical data interpretation test

Med Decis Making. 2005 May-Jun;25(3):290-300. doi: 10.1177/0272989X05276860.


Objective: To establish the reliability/validity of an 18-item test of patients' medical data interpretation skills.

Design: Survey with retest after 2 weeks. Subjects. 178 people recruited from advertisements in local newspapers, an outpatient clinic, and a hospital open house.

Results: The percentage of correct answers to individual items ranged from 20% to 87%, and medical data interpretation test scores (on a 0- 100 scale) were normally distributed (median 61.1, mean 61.0, range 6-94). Reliability was good (test-retest correlation=0.67, Cronbach's alpha=0.71). Construct validity was supported in several ways. Higher scores were found among people with highest versus lowest numeracy (71 v. 36, P<0.001), highest quantitative literacy (65 v. 28, P<0.001), and highest education (69 v. 42, P=0.004). Scores for 15 physician experts also completing the survey were significantly higher than participants with other postgraduate degrees (mean score 89 v. 69, P<0.001).

Conclusion: The medical data interpretation test is a reliable and valid measure of the ability to interpret medical statistics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Decision Making
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Hampshire
  • Patient Education as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics / instrumentation*
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*