Hurried doctor visits may leave patients feeling forgetful

Jun 25, 2008

Have you ever been whisked through a doctor's visit, and afterward were unable to remember what the doctor said? A University of Rochester Medical Center study disclosed that doctors don't often take the steps necessary to help patients recall medical instructions.

The study, published online in this month's Journal of General Internal Medicine, investigated how frequently physicians repeat themselves, write down information, summarize instructions or take other steps to help patients remember the doctor's advice. The results suggest that doctors do not use these tools effectively or consistently. In fact, not one of the 49 doctors who took part in the study summarized their treatment recommendations.

"It's common for patients to forget half of what they're told in a medical visit," said the study's lead author, Jordan Silberman, a second-year University of Rochester medical student. "Obviously, this is cause for concern. As noted by the British researcher Philip Ley, 'if the patient cannot remember what he is supposed to do, he is extremely unlikely to do it.' No matter how effective a treatment is, it can be rendered useless by poor recall."

Researchers sent unannounced standardized patients (actors trained for this study) into primary care physician practices across Rochester, N.Y., with hidden recording devices. The actors complained of typical heartburn symptoms. Researchers then coded the recordings to determine how often doctors reinforced their instructions in some way.

Only about a third of the physicians wrote down instructions for patients. About half of the physicians repeated their recommendations, but some only repeated about 10 percent of the information.

Very few of the doctors made sure the patient understood by asking him or her to repeat it back to the doctor – a technique cited in research literature as one of the best ways to help patients recall medical advice. For example, Silberman said, the doctor might say, "We've talked about a lot of things today and I want to make sure you understand everything. Can you explain to me what you're going to do when you get home?"

Lack of time may be the biggest obstacle for doctors, researchers believe. The next step is to develop a new approach to improve patient recall that can be applied in today's busy practices, and then to study the techniques in the context of what is feasible for doctors.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center

Explore further: Offenders turn to mental health services 

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A smart prosthetic knee with in-vivo diagnoses

Apr 22, 2014

The task was to develop intelligent prosthetic joints that, via sensors, are capable of detecting early failure long before a patient suffers. EPFL researchers have taken up the challenge.

Cloaked DNA nanodevices survive pilot mission

Apr 22, 2014

It's a familiar trope in science fiction: In enemy territory, activate your cloaking device. And real-world viruses use similar tactics to make themselves invisible to the immune system. Now scientists at ...

Recommended for you

Cyber buddy is better than 'no buddy'

14 hours ago

A Michigan State University researcher is looking to give exercise enthusiasts the extra nudge they need during a workout, and her latest research shows that a cyber buddy can help.

Offenders turn to mental health services 

20 hours ago

Adult criminal offenders in Western Australian are eight times more likely than non-offenders to use community-based mental health services in the year before their first sentence, a UWA study has found.

Deliberation is staunchest ally of selfishness

20 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Over the last two years, Yale psychologist David Rand and colleagues have investigated what makes people willing to help each other. Their latest research shows that while initial reactions ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Rising role seen for health education specialists

(HealthDay)—A health education specialist can help family practices implement quality improvement projects with limited additional financial resources, according to an article published in the March/April ...

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.

Brazil enacts Internet 'Bill of Rights'

Brazil's president signed into law on Wednesday a "Bill of Rights" for the digital age that aims to protect online privacy and promote the Internet as a public utility by barring telecommunications companies ...