Low health literacy (HL) is an important risk factor for cancer health disparities.
Describe a continuing medical education (CME) program to teach primary care physicians (PCP) cancer risk communication and shared decision-making (SDM) with low HL patients and baseline skills assessment.
Cluster randomized controlled trial in five primary care clinics in New Orleans, LA.
Eighteen PCPs and 73 low HL patients overdue for cancer screening.
Primary care physicians completed unannounced standardized patient (SP) encounters at baseline. Intervention physicians received SP verbal feedback; academic detailing to review cancer screening guidelines, red flags for identifying low HL, and strategies for effective counseling; and web-based tutorial of SP comments and checklist items hyperlinked to reference articles/websites.
Baseline PCP self-rated proficiency, SP ratings of physician general cancer risk communication and SDM skills, patient perceived involvement in care.
Baseline assessments show physicians rated their proficiency in discussing cancer risks and eliciting patient preference for treatment/decision-making as “very good”. SPs rated physician exploration of perceived cancer susceptibility, screening barriers/motivators, checking understanding, explaining screening options and associated risks/benefits, and eliciting preferences for screening as “satisfactory”. Clinic patients rated their doctor’s facilitation of involvement in care and information exchange as “good”. However, they rated their participation in decision-making as “poor”.
The baseline skills assessment suggests a need for physician training in cancer risk communication and shared decision making for patients with low HL. We are determining the effectiveness of teaching methods, required resources and long-term feasibility for a CME program.
KEY WORDS: health literacy, continuing medical education, communication skills, cancer screening