Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 12, pp 2117–2124

Numeracy and Communication with Patients: They Are Counting on Us


    • Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of Pennsylvania
  • Michael K. Paasche-Orlow
    • Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineBoston University School of Medicine
  • Janine T. Remillard
    • Graduate School of EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania
  • Ian M. Bennett
    • Department of Family Medicine and Community HealthUniversity of Pennsylvania
  • Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph
    • Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children
  • Rosanna M. Batista
    • Research Study Coordinator, Children’s Hospital
  • James Hyde
    • Department of Public Health and Family MedicineTufts University School of Medicine
  • Rima E. Rudd
    • Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0803-x

Cite this article as:
Apter, A.J., Paasche-Orlow, M.K., Remillard, J.T. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2008) 23: 2117. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0803-x


Patient-centered interactive communication between physicians and patients is recommended to improve the quality of medical care. Numerical concepts are important components of such exchanges and include arithmetic and use of percentages, as well as higher level tasks like estimation, probability, problem-solving, and risk assessment - the basis of preventive medicine. Difficulty with numerical concepts may impede communication. The current evidence on prevalence, measurement, and outcomes related to numeracy is presented, along with a summary of best practices for communication of numerical information. This information is integrated into a hierarchical model of mathematical concepts and skills, which can guide clinicians toward numerical communication that is easier to use with patients.


numeracyhealth literacyhealth communicationrisk

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008