Health numeracy (numerical literacy) refers to an individual's ability to use numerical information to make effective health decisions. Numeracy is fundamental in the role of a health care provider, forming the basis of evidence-based medicine and effective patient-provider communication. Despite a high level of education, many health care providers struggle with numeracy. Numeracy is often integrated into training curricula; however, teaching modality, competencies covered, learner satisfaction, and effectiveness of these educational interventions varies.
A scoping review was conducted to explore and summarize what is known about numeracy skills education programs for health care providers. A comprehensive literature search was conducted from January 2010 to April 2021 in 10 databases. Controlled vocabulary terms and text words were used. The search was restricted to human studies, adults, and the English language. Articles were included if they were related to numeracy education for health care providers or trainees and provided details regarding methods, evaluation, and results.
The literature search retrieved 31,611 results and 71 met the inclusion criteria. Most interventions were conducted in a university setting, and targeted nursing students, medical students, resident physicians, and pharmacy students. Common numeracy concepts included statistics/biostatistics, medication calculations, evidence-based medicine, research methodology, and epidemiology. A variety of teaching modalities were used, which most often combined active approaches (eg, workshops, laboratories, small-group exercises, and discussion boards) with passive approaches (eg, traditional lectures and didactic teaching). Measured outcomes included knowledge and skills, self-efficacy, attitudes, and engagement.
Although efforts have been made to incorporate numeracy into training curricula, greater emphasis should be placed on developing strong numeracy skills in health care providers, particularly given the role numerical information plays in clinical decision making, evidence-based practices, and patient-provider communication.