Physician preferences to communicate neuropsychological results: Comparison of qualitative descriptors and a proposal to reduce communication errors

Mike R. Schoenberg, Katie E. Osborn, E. Mark Mahone, Maia Feigon, Robert M. Roth, Neil H. Pliskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Errors in communication are a leading cause of medical errors. A potential source of error in communicating neuropsychological results is confusion in the qualitative descriptors used to describe standardized neuropsychological data. This study sought to evaluate the extent to which medical consumers of neuropsychological assessments believed that results/findings were not clearly communicated. In addition, preference data for a variety of qualitative descriptors commonly used to communicate normative neuropsychological test scores were obtained. Methods: Preference data were obtained for five qualitative descriptor systems as part of a larger 36-item internet-based survey of physician satisfaction with neuropsychological services. A new qualitative descriptor system termed the Simplified Qualitative Classification System (Q-Simple) was proposed to reduce the potential for communication errors using seven terms: very superior, superior, high average, average, low average, borderline, and abnormal/impaired. A non-random convenience sample of 605 clinicians identified from four United States academic medical centers from January 1, 2015 through January 7, 2016 were invited to participate. Results: A total of 182 surveys were completed. A minority of clinicians (12.5%) indicated that neuropsychological study results were not clearly communicated. When communicating neuropsychological standardized scores, the two most preferred qualitative descriptor systems were by Heaton and colleagues (26%) and a newly proposed Q-simple system (22%). Comprehensive norms for an extended Halstead-Reitan battery: Demographic corrections, research findings, and clinical applications. Odessa, TX: Psychological Assessment Resources) (26%) and the newly proposed Q-Simple system (22%). Discussion: Initial findings highlight the need to improve and standardize communication of neuropsychological results. These data offer initial guidance for preferred terms to communicate test results and form a foundation for more standardized practice among neuropsychologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-643
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Clinical Neuropsychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Interpretation
  • Medical errors
  • Neuropsychological assessment
  • Qualitative descriptors
  • Reporting standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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