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Assessing minimal medical statistical literacy using the Quick Risk Test: a prospective observational study in Germany
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  • Published on:
    Response to Mayer and Muche (2019)
    • Mirjam A. Jenny, Head Research Scientist Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Max Planck Institute for Human Development
    • Other Contributors:
      • Niklas Keller, Research Scientist
      • Gerd Gigerenzer, Director

    We thank Mayer and Muche for their response to our article on measuring minimal medical statistical literacy. The authors argue that the Quick Risk Test – which tests the understanding of ten basic concepts such as sensitivity and specificity – does not cover all relevant aspects of minimal medical statistical literacy. According to them, minimal medical statistical literacy also entails a proper understanding of study design features, adequate descriptive measures, the need to adjust results by regression analysis and the validity of results from inferential statistics, including confidence intervals and the principles of statistical testing. We fully agree that physicians need to understand the above concepts in order to correctly interpret scientific medical evidence. At the same time, we define minimal medical statistical literacy as a set of skills that enables physicians to evaluate medical tests, treatments, interventions and results, i.e., skills critical to daily clinical practice. Given that the students and faculty members we tested did not adequately understand these basic concepts, we have no reason to assume that they would have understood more complex concepts such as confidence intervals. In fact, previous studies indicate that the majority of physicians do not even understand p-values1-3. Once medical schools and CME providers teach and physicians understand the basic concepts tested with the Quick Risk Test, we would be happy to develop a test for the mor...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Response to Jenny, Keller, and Gigerenzer: “Assessing minimal medical statistical literacy using the Quick Risk Test: a prospective observational study in Germany“, BMJ Open 2018, 8: e020847
    • Benjamin Mayer, Statistician Ulm University, Institute for Epidemiology and Medical Biometry
    • Other Contributors:
      • Rainer Muche, Statistician

    We read the recently published article by Jenny, Keller, and Gigerenzer with great interest. They describe the application of a quick test in order to assess the skills of 169 medical students and 16 medical professors and other senior medical educators with respect to medical statistical literacy. The authors’ conclusion confirmed in some way the commonly received impression that quite a few physicians have a good grasp of the most important concepts of basic medical statistics. However, we would like to point to the fact that the conclusion as well as the title of the manuscript may paint a picture which is too generalizing.

    The proposed Quick Risk Test for sure covers some important aspects of risk-related medical statistics, like diagnostic and prognostic measures and sources of bias, but others are completely disregarded. We believe that also a proper understanding of study design features, adequate descriptive measures, the need of adjustment of results by regression analysis, as well as the validity of results from inferential statistics (the idea of confidence intervals and the principles of statistical testing) are topics to be taken into account when assessing medical statistical literacy. In that respect, the proposed quick test seems to be incomplete regarding the grade of generalization which was derived from the results in the paper. In our view the judgement of what is “minimal” in medical statistical literacy, as used in the title of the manuscript,...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.