French academic physicians had a poor knowledge of terms used in clinical epidemiology

J Clin Epidemiol. 2006 Sep;59(9):1009-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2006.03.005. Epub 2006 Jul 11.


Objectives: To assess academic physicians' understanding and usage of basic epidemiological terms commonly used in medical journals.

Study design and setting: Observational study. A total of 274 physicians, working in a teaching hospital in Paris, France were asked to answer a questionnaire including four vignettes presenting the results of a therapeutic, a diagnostic, a prognostic study and a meta-analysis of clinical trials.

Results: A total of 130 (47%) questionnaires were returned. We observed the highest proportion of good answers for questions about absolute risk reduction (87.7%), sensitivity (84.6%), and specificity (80%); and the lowest for the calculation and use of the likelihood ratio (16.9% and 9.2%, respectively). The global mean score was 5.0/10 (95% confidence interval=4.6-5.4, range 0-9.4). Physicians got higher scores for questions related to treatment than for questions related to diagnosis: mean scores 7.1 (6.6-7.6) vs. 4.2 (3.8-4.6). Regression analysis did not reveal any significant relationship between global performance and physicians' age (r2=0.002, not significant [NS])

Conclusion: Physicians demonstrated only moderate knowledge and usage of clinical epidemiology terms used in major medical journals. Their capacity to interpret quantitative data from medical scientific literature may be limited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Epidemiology*
  • France
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Physicians*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminology as Topic