MS: Benefits Seen when Patients Learn what Confidence Intervals Are


Patients with MS may make better choices on treatments if they understand the basic statistical concept of confidence intervals, a team reports.

Researchers have developed a tool that may help patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) interpret study results and make more informed treatment decisions.

Anne Rahn, PhD, of the Institute for Neuroimmunology and Multiple Sclerosis and Department of Neurology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, along with colleagues, described the pilot-test of materials designed to educate patients about confidence intervals (CI) in an article published in the journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making on September 20, 2016.

Patients with MS need to fully understand their choices when it comes to disease modifying drugs, including absolute risk reductions and confidence intervals. “Therefore, this study aims to develop and pilot-test patient information (PI) materials to explain CI” to patients with MS, they say. They also developed a questionnaire to assess the patients’ levels comprehension of CI.

The researchers completed a pre-pilot test with 12 patients, testing 3 versions of PI designed to educate patients about CI. They then invited 1,000 others to take part in the pilot. A total of 64 people completed the survey. The researchers admit to limitations to this study and say, “a large study with a less biased sample is needed to evaluate the PI on CI.”

Patients with MS “may benefit from understanding CI, because they will be able to better compare different therapy options,” say the authors, and this pilot study shows some promise as far as the acceptability and feasibility of educating patients about CI. The researchers conclude, “Understanding CI and other numerical data is of high importance for an informed treatment decision making process,” adding “further research should focus on possibilities to explain numerical data of different formats in different patient groups.”

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