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J Health Commun. 2010;15 Suppl 3:157-68. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2010.522699.

Patient numeracy, perceptions of provider communication, and colorectal cancer screening utilization.

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Division of General Internal Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt University, 2525 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN37203-1738, USA.


Patients with poor numeracy skills may have difficulty participating in shared-decision making, affecting their utilization of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. We explored the relationship between numeracy, provider communication, and CRC screening. Data were from the 2007 National Cancer Institute Health Information Trends Survey. Individuals age 50 years or older responded via mail or phone to items measuring numeracy, perceptions of provider communication quality, and CRC screening. After accounting for national sampling weights, multivariate logistic regression models examined the association between these factors. A total of 1,436 subjects responded to an objective numeracy item via mail, and 3,286 responded to a subjective numeracy item via mail or phone; 22.6% had low objective numeracy, and 39.4% had low subjective numeracy. Low subjective numeracy was associated with a lower likelihood of perceiving high quality provider communication (OR 0.63-0.73), but for low objective numeracy, the opposite was observed (OR 1.51-1.64). Low objective or subjective numeracy was associated with less CRC screening. There was significant interaction between subjective numeracy, perceptions of provider communication, and CRC screening. Patient numeracy is associated with perceptions of provider communication quality. For individuals with low subjective numeracy, perceiving high quality communication offset the association between low numeracy and underutilization of CRC screening.

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