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Residents Lack Tools to Interpret Medical Literature

Study suggests their knowledge of biostatistics is limited

TUESDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Many medical residents have a suboptimal knowledge of basic biostatistics, which may hamper their ability to correctly interpret many of the results in published clinical research, according to a report in the Sept. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Donna M. Windish, M.D., of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues administered a biostatistics and study-design multiple choice survey to 277 residents in 11 internal medicine residency programs.

The mean percentage of correct answers on the survey was 41.1 percent for residents, compared to 71.5 percent for fellows and general medicine faculty with research training. Higher scores among residents correlated with additional advanced degrees, prior biostatistics training, enrollment in university-based programs, and male sex. Most residents understand the concept of relative risk (81.6 percent), but fewer correctly interpreted an adjusted odds ratio from a multivariate regression (37.4 percent) or a Kaplan-Meier analysis (10.5 percent).

"If physicians cannot detect appropriate statistical analyses and accurately understand their results, the risk of incorrect interpretation may lead to erroneous applications of clinical research," the authors conclude. "Educators should re-evaluate how this information is taught and reinforced in order to adequately prepare trainees for lifelong learning."

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