To examine the psychometric properties of two new health literacy tests, and to evaluate score validity.
Adults aged 40 to 71 completed the Cancer Message Literacy Test-Listening (CMLT- Listening), the Cancer Message Literacy Test-Reading (CMLT-Reading), the REALM, the Lipkus numeracy test, a brief knowledge test (developed for this study) and five brief cognitive tests. Participants also self-reported educational achievement, current health, reading ability, ability to understand spoken information, and language spoken at home.
Score reliabilities were good (CMLT-Listening: alpha = .84) to adequate (CMLT-Reading: alpha =.75). Scores on both CMLT tests were positively and significantly correlated with scores on the REALM, numeracy, cancer knowledge and the cognitive tests. Mean CMLT scores varied as predicted according to educational level, language spoken at home, self-rated health, self-reported reading, and self-rated ability to comprehend spoken information.
The psychometric findings for both tests are promising. Scores appear to be valid indicators of comprehension of spoken and written health messages about cancer prevention and screening.
The CMLT-Listening will facilitate research into comprehension of spoken health messages, and together with the CMLT-Reading will allow researchers to examine the unique contributions of listening and reading comprehension to health-related decisions and behaviors.
Health literacy; Cancer prevention; Psychometrics
Although tamoxifen can prevent primary breast cancer, few women use it as a preventive measure. A second option, raloxifene, has recently been approved. The objective of the study was to determine women’s interest in tamoxifen and raloxifene after reading a decision aid describing the risks and benefits of each medication. Women with 5-year risk of breast cancer ≥1.66 from two large health maintenance organizations were randomized to receive a decision aid versus usual care. After reading an on-line decision aid that discussed the risks and benefits of tamoxifen and raloxifene, women completed measures of risk perception, decisional conflict, behavioral intentions and actual behavior related to tamoxifen and raloxifene. 3 months following the intervention, 8.1% of participants had looked for additional information about breast cancer prevention drugs and 1.8% had talked to their doctor about tamoxifen and/or raloxifene. The majority, 54.7%, had decided to not take either drug, 0.5% had started raloxifene, and none had started tamoxifen. Participants were not particularly worried about taking tamoxifen or raloxifene and did not perceive significant benefits from taking these drugs. Over 50% did not perceive a change in their risk of getting breast cancer if they took tamoxifen or raloxifene. After reading a DA about tamoxifen and raloxifene, few women were interested in taking either breast cancer prevention drug.
decision aids; patient education; tamoxifen; raloxifene; breast cancer prevention
Tamoxifen reduces primary breast cancer incidence, yet has serious side effects. To date, few women with increased breast cancer risk have elected to use tamoxifen for chemoprevention. The objective of the study was to determine women’s knowledge of and attitudes toward tamoxifen following exposure to a tailored decision aid (DA).
632 women with a 5-year risk of breast cancer ≥1.66% (Mean=2.56, range=1.7-17.3) were recruited from 2 healthcare organizations. Participants viewed an online DA that informed them about their 5-year risk of breast cancer and presented individually-tailored content depicting the risks/benefits of tamoxifen prophylaxis. Outcome measures included behavioral intentions (to seek additional information about tamoxifen, to talk to a physician about tamoxifen, and to take tamoxifen); knowledge; and perceived risks and benefits of tamoxifen.
After viewing the DA, 29% of participants said they intended to seek more information or talk to their doctor about tamoxifen, and only 6% believed they would take tamoxifen. Knowledge was considerable, with 63% of women answering at least 5 of 6 knowledge questions correctly. Participants were concerned about the risks of tamoxifen and many believed that the benefits of tamoxifen did not outweigh the risks.
This study is the largest to date to test women’s preferences for taking tamoxifen and one of the largest to have tested the impact of a tailored decision aid. After viewing the DA, women demonstrated good understanding of tamoxifen’s risks and benefits, but most were not interested in taking tamoxifen for breast cancer chemoprevention.
decision aids; patient education; tamoxifen; breast cancer prevention
Ability to understand spoken health information is an important facet of health literacy, but to date, no instrument has been available to quantify patients’ ability in this area. We sought to develop a test to assess comprehension of spoken health messages related to cancer prevention and screening to fill this gap, and a complementary test of comprehension of written health messages.
We used the Sentence Verification Technique to write items based on realistic health messages about cancer prevention and screening, including media messages, clinical encounters and clinical print materials. Items were reviewed, revised, and pre-tested. Adults aged 40 to 70 participated in a pilot administration in Georgia, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.
The Cancer Message Literacy Test-Listening is self-administered via touchscreen laptop computer. No reading is required. It takes approximately 1 hour. The Cancer Message Literacy Test-Reading is self-administered on paper. It takes approximately 10 minutes.
These two new tests will allow researchers to assess comprehension of spoken health messages, to examine the relationship between listening and reading literacy, and to explore the impact of each form of literacy on health-related outcomes.
Researchers and clinicians now have a means of measuring comprehension of spoken health information.
Health literacy; Cancer prevention; Instrument development
Chronic and recurrent urinary tract infections pose a serious medical problem because there are few effective treatment options. Patients with chronic urinary tract infections are commonly treated with long-term prophylactic antibiotics that promote the development of antibiotic-resistant forms of uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), further complicating treatment. We developed small–molecular weight compounds termed mannosides that specifically inhibit the FimH type 1 pilus lectin of UPEC, which mediates bacterial colonization, invasion, and formation of recalcitrant intracellular bacterial communities in the bladder epithelium. Here, we optimized these compounds for oral bioavailability and demonstrated their fast-acting efficacy in treating chronic urinary tract infections in a preclinical murine model. These compounds also prevented infection in vivo when given prophylactically and strongly potentiated the activity of the current standard of care therapy, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, against clinically resistant PBC-1 UPEC bacteria. These compounds have therapeutic efficacy after oral administration for the treatment of established urinary tract infections in vivo. Their unique mechanism of action—targeting the pilus tip adhesin FimH—circumvents the conventional requirement for drug penetration of the outer membrane, minimizing the potential for the development of resistance. The small–molecular weight compounds described herein promise to provide substantial benefit to women suffering from chronic and recurrent urinary tract infections.
Cancer treatments are complex, involving multiple clinicians, toxic therapies, and uncertain outcomes. Consequently, patients are vulnerable when breakdowns in care occur. This study explored cancer patients' perceptions of preventable, harmful events; the impact of these events; and interactions with clinicians after such events.
Patients and Methods
In-depth telephone interviews were conducted with cancer patients from three clinical sites. Patients were eligible if they believed: something “went wrong” during their cancer care; the event could have been prevented; and the event caused, or could have caused, significant harm. Interviews focused on patients' perceptions of the event, its impact, and clinicians' responses to the event.
Ninety-three of 416 patients queried believed something had gone wrong in their care that was preventable and caused or could have caused harm. Seventy-eight patients completed interviews. Of those interviewed, 28% described a problem with medical care, such as a delay in diagnosis or treatment; 47% described a communication problem, including problems with information exchange or manner; and 24% described problems with both medical care and communication. Perceived harms included physical and emotional harm, disruption of life, effect on family members, damaged physician-patient relationship, and financial expense. Few clinicians initiated discussion of the problematic events. Most patients did not formally report their concerns.
Cancer patients who believe they experienced a preventable, harmful event during their cancer diagnosis or care often do not formally report their concerns. Systems are needed to encourage patients to report such events and to help physicians and health care systems respond effectively.
Improving health literacy is one key to buoying our nation’s troubled health care system. As system-level health literacy improvement strategies take the stage among national priorities for health care, the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model of care emerges as a compelling avenue for their widespread implementation. With a shared focus on effective communication and team-based care organized around patient needs, health literacy principles and the PCMH are well aligned. However, their synergy has received little attention, even as PCMH demonstration projects and health literacy interventions spring up nationwide. While many health literacy interventions are limited by their focus on a single point along the continuum of care, creating a “room” for health literacy within the PCMH may finally provide a multi-dimensional, system-level approach to tackling the full range of health literacy challenges. Increasing uptake coupled with federal support and financial incentives further boosts the model’s potential for advancing health literacy. On the journey toward a revitalized health care system, integrating health literacy into the PCMH presents a promising opportunity that deserves consideration.
communication; health literacy; patient-centered care; medical home
Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), which accounts for 85% of urinary tract infections (UTI), assembles biofilms in diverse environments, including the host. Besides forming biofilms on biotic surfaces and catheters, UPEC has evolved an intracellular pathogenic cascade that culminates in the formation of biofilm-like intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs) within bladder epithelial cells. Rapid bacterial replication during IBC formation augments a build-up in bacterial numbers and persistence within the host. Relatively little is known about factors mediating UPEC biofilm formation and how these overlap with IBC formation. To address this gap, we screened a UPEC transposon mutant library in three in vitro biofilm conditions: Luria broth (LB)-polyvinyl chloride (PVC), YESCA (yeast extract-Casamino Acids)-PVC, and YESCA-pellicle that are dependent on type 1 pili (LB) and curli (YESCA), respectively. Flagella are important in all three conditions. Mutants were identified that had biofilm defects in all three conditions but had no significant effects on the expression of type 1 pili, curli, or flagella. Thus, this approach uncovered a comprehensive inventory of novel effectors and regulators that are involved in UPEC biofilm formation under multiple conditions. A subset of these mutants was found to be dramatically attenuated and unable to form IBCs in a murine model of UTI. Collectively, this study expands our insights into UPEC multicellular behavior that may provide insights into IBC formation and virulence.
Guidelines on apology and disclosure after adverse events and errors have been in place for over five years. This study examines whether patients consider recommended responses to be appropriate and desirable, and whether clinicians' actions after adverse events are consistent with recommendations.
Patients who believed that something had gone wrong during their cancer care were identified. During in-depth interviews, patients described the event, clinicians' responses, and their reactions.
78 patients were interviewed. Patients' valued apology and expressions of remorse, empathy and caring, explanation, acknowledgement of responsibility, and efforts to prevent recurrences, but these key elements were often missing. For many patients, actions and evidence of clinician learning were most important.
Patients' reports of apology and disclosure when they believe something has gone wrong in their care suggest that clinicians' responses continue to fall short of expectations.
Clinicians preparing to talk with patients after an adverse event or medical error should be aware that patients expect their actions to be congruent with their words of apology and caring. Healthcare systems need to support clinicians throughout the disclosure process, and facilitate both system and individual learning to prevent recurrences.
Over the past two decades, the health research enterprise has matured rapidly, and many recognize an urgent need to translate pertinent research results into practice, to help improve the quality, accessibility, and affordability of U.S. health care. Streamlining research operations would speed translation, particularly for multi-site collaborations. However, the culture of research discourages reusing or adapting existing resources or study materials. Too often, researchers start studies and multi-site collaborations from scratch—reinventing the wheel. Our team developed a compendium of resources to address inefficiencies and researchers’ unmet needs and compiled them in a research toolkit website (www.ResearchToolkit.org). Through our work, we identified philosophical and operational issues related to disseminating the toolkit to the research community. We explore these issues here, with implications for the nation’s investment in biomedical research.
The concept of patient-centered care has received increased attention in recent years and is now considered an essential aspiration of high-quality health care systems. Because of technologic advances as well as changes in the organization and financing of care delivery, contemporary health care has evolved tremendously since the concept of patient-centeredness was introduced in the late 1980s. Historically, those advocating patient-centered care have focused on the relationship between the patient and the physician or care team. Although that relationship is still integral, changes to the health care system suggest that a broader range of factors may affect the patient-centeredness of health care experiences. A multidimensional conceptualization of patient-centered care and examples from our health care system illustrate how clinical, structural, and interpersonal attributes can collectively influence the patient's experience. The proposed framework is designed to enable any health system to identify ways in which care could be more patient-centered and move toward a goal of making it a “systems property.”
The cancer care system is increasingly complex, marked by multiple hand-offs between primary care and specialty providers, inadequate communication among providers, and lack of clarity about a “medical home” (the ideal accountable care provider) for cancer patients. Patients and families often cite such difficulties as information deficits, uncoordinated care, and insufficient psychosocial support. This article presents a review of the challenges of delivering well coordinated, patient-centered cancer care in a complex modern healthcare system. An examination is made of the potential role of information technology (IT) advances to help both providers and patients. Using the published literature as background, a review is provided of selected work that is underway to improve communication, coordination, and quality of care. Also discussed are additional challenges and opportunities to advancing understanding of how patient data, provider and patient involvement, and informatics innovations can support high-quality cancer care.
Many health communications target African Americans in an attempt to remediate race-based health disparities. Such materials often assume that African Americans are culturally homogeneous; however, research indicates that African Americans are heterogeneous in their attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. The Black Identity Classification Scale (BICS) was designed as a telephone-administered tool to segment African American audiences into 16 ethnic identity types. The BICS was pretested using focus groups, telephone pretests, and a pilot study (n=306). The final scale was then administered to 625 Black adults participating in a dietary intervention study, where it generally demonstrated good internal consistency reliability. The construct validity of the BICS was also explored by comparing participants’ responses to culturally associated survey items. The distribution of the 16 BICS identity types in the intervention study is presented, as well as select characteristics for participants with core identity components. Although additional research is warranted, these findings suggest that the BICS has good psychometric properties and may be an effective tool for identifying African American audience segments.
Women at high risk of breast cancer face a difficult decision whether to take medications like tamoxifen to prevent a first breast cancer diagnosis. Decision aids (DAs) offer a promising method of helping them make this decision. But concern lingers that DAs might introduce cognitive biases.
We recruited 663 women at high risk of breast cancer and presented them with a DA designed to experimentally test potential methods of identifying and reducing cognitive biases that could influence this decision, by varying specific aspects of the DA across participants in a factorial design.
Participants were susceptible to a cognitive bias—an order effect—such that those who learned first about the risks of tamoxifen thought more favorably of the drug than women who learned first about the benefits. This order effect was eliminated among women who received additional information about competing health risks.
We discovered that the order of risk/benefit information influenced women’s perceptions of tamoxifen. This bias was eliminated by providing contextual information about competing health risks.
Changes in several regions within the brain have been associated with progression from healthy aging to Alzheimer's disease (AD), including the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, and more recently, the inferior parietal lobule (IPL). In this study, the IPL was divided into three subregions: the gyrus, the banks of the sulcus, and the fundus to determine if these regions are independent of medial temporal regions in the progression of AD. Participants of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI; n=54) underwent a structural MRI scan and neuropsychological exam, and were categorized as normal controls, mild cognitively impaired (MCI), or AD. FreeSurfer was initially used to identify the boundaries of the IPL. Each subregion was then manually traced based on FreeSurfer curvature intensities. Multivariate analyses of variance were used to compare groups. Results suggest that changes in thickness of the banks of the inferior parietal lobule are occurring early in the progression from normal to MCI, followed by changes in the gyrus and fundus, and these measures are related to neuropsychological performance.
Alzheimer's disease; MCI; MRI; Inferior parietal lobule
The improvement of health outcomes for both individual patients and entire populations requires improvement in the array of structures that support decisions and activities by healthcare practitioners. Yet, many gaps remain in how even sophisticated healthcare organizations manage knowledge. Here we describe the value of a trans-institutional network for identifying and capturing how-to knowledge that contributes to improved outcomes. Organizing and sharing on-the-job experience would concentrate and organize the activities of individual practitioners and subject their rapid cycle improvement testing and refinement to a form of collective intelligence for subsequent diffusion back through the network. We use the existing Cancer Research Network as an example of how a loosely structured consortium of healthcare delivery organizations could create and grow an implementation registry to foster innovation and implementation success by communicating what works, how, and which practitioners are using each innovation. We focus on the principles and parameters that could be used as a basis for infrastructure design. As experiential knowledge from across institutions builds within such a system, the system could ultimately motivate rapid learning and adoption of best practices. Implications for research about healthcare IT, invention, and organizational learning are discussed.
Implementation registry; Communities of practice; Healthcare practice improvement; Cancer Research Network
Health messages on television and other mass media have the potential to significantly influence the public’s health-related knowledge and behaviors, but little is known about people’s ability to comprehend such messages. To investigate whether people understood the spoken information in media messages about cancer prevention and screening, we recruited 44 adults from 3 sites to view 6 messages aired on television and the internet. Participants were asked to paraphrase main points and selected phrases. Qualitative analysis methods were used to identify what content was correctly and accurately recalled and paraphrased, and to describe misunderstandings and misconceptions. While most participants accurately recalled and paraphrased the gist of the messages used here, over-generalization (e.g., believing preventative behaviors to be more protective than stated), loss of details (e.g., misremembering the recommended age for screening) and confusion or misunderstandings around specific concepts (e.g., interpreting “early stage” as the stage in one’s life rather than cancer stage) were common. Variability in the public’s ability to understand spoken media messages may limit the effectiveness of both pubic health campaigns and provider-patient communication. Additional research is needed to identify message characteristics which enhance understandability and improve comprehension of spoken media messages around cancer.
HMO; health plans; health disparities; cultural sensitivity; ethnic identity; African American
Health data sharing with and among practices is a method for engaging rural and underserved populations, often with strong histories of marginalization, in health research. The Institute of Translational Health Sciences, funded by a National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award, is engaged in the LC Data QUEST project to build practice and community based research networks with the ability to share semantically aligned electronic health data. We visited ten practices and communities to assess the feasibility of and barriers to developing data sharing networks. We found that these sites had very different approaches and expectations for data sharing. In order to support practices and communities and foster the acceptance of data sharing in these settings, informaticists must take these diverse views into account. Based on these findings, we discuss system design implications and the need for flexibility in the development of community-based data sharing networks.
Initial trials of web-based smoking-cessation programs have generally been promising. The active components of these programs, however, are not well understood. This study aimed to (1) identify active psychosocial and communication components of a web-based smoking-cessation intervention and (2) examine the impact of increasing the tailoring depth on smoking cessation.
Randomized fractional factorial design.
Two HMOs: Group Health in Washington State and Henry Ford Health System in Michigan.
A web-based smoking-cessation program plus nicotine patch. Five components of the intervention were randomized using a fractional factorial design: high- versus low-depth tailored success story, outcome expectation, and efficacy expectation messages; high- versus low-personalized source; and multiple versus single exposure to the intervention components.
Primary outcome was 7 day point-prevalence abstinence at the 6-month follow-up.
Abstinence was most influenced by high-depth tailored success stories and a high-personalized message source. The cumulative assignment of the three tailoring depth factors also resulted in increasing the rates of 6-month cessation, demonstrating an effect of tailoring depth.
The study identified relevant components of smoking-cessation interventions that should be generalizable to other cessation interventions. The study also demonstrated the importance of higher-depth tailoring in smoking-cessation programs. Finally, the use of a novel fractional factorial design allowed efficient examination of the study aims. The rapidly changing interfaces, software, and capabilities of eHealth are likely to require such dynamic experimental approaches to intervention discovery.
Web-based programs for health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management often experience high rates of attrition. There are 3 questions which are particularly relevant to this issue. First, does engagement with program content predict long-term outcomes? Second, which users are most likely to drop out or disengage from the program? Third, do particular intervention strategies enhance engagement?
To determine: (1) whether engagement (defined by the number of Web sections opened) in a Web-based smoking cessation intervention predicts 6-month abstinence, (2) whether particular sociodemographic and psychographic groups are more likely to have lower engagement, and (3) whether particular components of a Web-based smoking cessation program influence engagement.
A randomized trial of 1866 smokers was used to examine the efficacy of 5 different treatment components of a Web-based smoking cessation intervention. The components were: high- versus low-personalized message source, high- versus low-tailored outcome expectation, efficacy expectation, and success story messages. Moreover, the timing of exposure to these sections was manipulated, with participants randomized to either a single unified Web program with all sections available at once, or sequential exposure to each section over a 5-week period of time. Participants from 2 large health plans enrolled to receive the online behavioral smoking cessation program and a free course of nicotine replacement therapy (patch). The program included: an introduction section, a section focusing on outcome expectations, 2 sections focusing on efficacy expectations, and a section with a narrative success story (5 sections altogether, each with multiple screens). Most of the analyses were conducted with a stratification of the 2 exposure types. Measures included: sociodemographic and psychosocial characteristics, Web sections opened, perceived message relevance, and smoking cessation 6-months following quit date.
The total number of Web sections opened was related to subsequent smoking cessation. Participants who were younger, were male, or had less formal education were more likely to disengage from the Web-based cessation program, particularly when the program sections were delivered sequentially over time. More personalized source and high-depth tailored self-efficacy components were related to a greater number of Web sections opened. A path analysis model suggested that the impact of high-depth message tailoring on engagement in the sequentially delivered Web program was mediated by perceived message relevance.
Results of this study suggest that one of the mechanisms underlying the impact of Web-based smoking cessation interventions is engagement with the program. The source of the message, the degree of message tailoring, and the timing of exposure appear to influence Web-based program engagement.
Internet, World Wide Web; smoking cessation; engagement
health care systems; self-management; health literacy; literacy
The Internet is a promising venue for delivering smoking cessation treatment, either as a stand-alone program or as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy. However, there is little data to indicate what percent of smokers are interested in receiving online smoking cessation services or how best to recruit smokers to Internet-based programs.
Using a defined recruitment sample, this study aimed to identify the percentage of smokers who expressed interest in or enrolled in Project Quit, a tailored, online, cognitive-behavioral support program offered with adjunctive nicotine replacement therapy patches. In addition, we examined the effectiveness of several individual-level versus population-level recruitment strategies.
Members from two large health care organizations in the United States were invited to participate in Project Quit. Recruitment efforts included proactive invitation letters mailed to 34533 likely smokers and reactive population-level study advertisements targeted to all health plan members (> 560000 adults, including an estimated 98000 smokers across both health care organizations).
An estimated 1.6% and 2.5% of adult smokers from each health care organization enrolled in Project Quit. Among likely smokers who received proactive study invitations, 7% visited the Project Quit website (n = 2260) and 4% (n = 1273) were eligible and enrolled. Response rates were similar across sites, despite using different sources to assemble the invitation mailing list. Proactive individual-level recruitment was more effective than other forms of recruitment, accounting for 69% of website visitors and 68% of enrollees.
Smokers were interested in receiving online smoking cessation support, even though they had access to other forms of treatment through their health insurance. Uptake rates for this program were comparable to those seen when smokers are advised to quit and are referred to other forms of smoking cessation treatment. In this sample, proactive mailings were the best method for recruiting smokers to Project Quit.
Internet; tobacco dependence; nicotine dependence; smoking cessation; recruitment activities
The NIH Roadmap is a major effort to reshape the US health research enterprise to accelerate medical discovery and to do so in such a way that actually hastens population health improvement through research. The Roadmap's ultimate goal resonates with the HMO Research Network, a consortium of integrated health care systems that uses its collective scientific capabilities to integrate research, practice, and policy for the improvement of health and health care among diverse populations. (See page 6 for abstracts from the HMO Research Network annual conference.) As such, the HMO Research Network was ideally suited to propose a new consortium project as a part of the NIH Roadmap, the Coordinated Clinical Studies Network (CCSN). The CCSN was funded in 2004 to create a path-breaking research facility that leverages several distinctive features of the HMO Research Network: the multidisciplinary scientific capabilities of its researchers; the ability to rapidly move clinical research findings into care delivery; its large, diverse patient populations; and a commitment to placing its findings in the public domain. Among the goals of the CCSN are to augment the capacity and infrastructure for conducting research, and to use considerable investments in health informatics to improve the scope and efficiency of research data collection. The NIH Roadmap is a revolutionary step toward a new paradigm for research and responds to both a compelling social need and rapid technological advances in biomedicine. The CCSN's participation in the Roadmap Initiative is a unique opportunity for researchers, clinicians, and our patients.
Nitrogen fixation (C2H2 reduction) by algae in flooded soil was limited by interactions within the algal community. Nitrogen fixation by either indigenous algae or Tolypothrix tenuis was reduced severalfold by a dense suspension of the green alga Nephrocytium sp. Similarly, interactions between the nitrogen-fixing alga (cyanobacterium) Aulosira 68 and natural densities of indigenous algae limited nitrogen-fixing activity in one of two soils examined. This was demonstrated by developing a variant of Aulosira 68 that was resistant to the herbicide simetryne at concentrations that prevented development of indigenous algae. More nitrogen was fixed by the resistant variant in flooded soil containing herbicide than was fixed in herbicide-free soil by either the indigenous algae or indigenous algae plus the parent strain of Aulosira. Interference from indigenous algae may hamper the development of nitrogen-fixing algae introduced into rice fields in attempts to increase biological nitrogen fixation.