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Computer support for determining drug dose: systematic review and meta-analysis

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 10 April 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:984

Doctors' innumeracy needs tackling


Walton and colleagues (BMJ 10 April, 1999, pp 984-90) conclude that
wider use of computers in hospital practice would help determine optimal
drug doses more effectively. There is no doubt that this is true and, in
situations where complicated pharmacokinetics are involved, there is also
no realistic alternative. However, there is the additional issue, alluded
to in the introduction of Walton et al's paper, of the appalling lack of
basic numeracy in our current graduates. Walton et al cite Rolfe and
Harper's frightening finding in 1995 that over 50% of hospital doctors
were not able to convert a percentage solution into a concentration. One
of my teaching colleagues last week drew my attention to the fact that
some of our students cannot identify which are centimetre and which are
graduations on a ruler. This is so basic a problem that it cannot be
ignored, especially at a time when so much attention is being paid to
restructuring of medical education to meet contemporary needs. Since the
schools system is apparently no longer able to ensure numerate competency,
we need to devise some other strategy to guarantee it. Perhaps it should
represent one of the mandatory clinical skills; perhaps our colleagues
problem-based courses could look to giving this aspect of problem-solving
as strong an emphasis as the abilities to communicate and to use a

Professor C Bell
Head, Dept of Physiology
Director of Preclinical Studies, School of Medicine
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2, Ireland

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 May 1999
C Bell