Boosting your Medical Memory

Good communication between patients and physicians is critical to care, but the average person remembers less than half of what doctors say during their office visits.

Now there's a way to remember exactly what your doctor told you.

This is the first time Elizabeth Byrd has taken a stroll since she had spinal surgery.

"It was very frightening," says Elizabeth Byrd.

Her appointment before the procedure was a blur.

"You forget exactly what's said, you're scared," explains Byrd.

That's why her Neurosurgeon, Doctor Randall Porter created the medical memory. Too many patients couldn't remember the details of their stressful visits.

"They look like they understand what I'm telling them,” says Dr. Randall W. Porter a Neurosurgeon at the Barrow Neurological Institute. “They seem like they understand and they come back to me a month later and say I don't remember a word that you told me."

The idea behind the program is simple. Patient visits are recorded from beginning to end. Then patients and their families can access the video online, so they can remember exactly what they need to know moving forward.

"So it's very helpful for them to be able to watch the video, look at their images, re-understand their illness, re-understand what we are going to do for them during surgery," says Dr. Porter.

Doctor Porter has used the Medical Memory in more than 1,000 cases. In feedback surveys, 92-percent of patients said the video helped them remember more. Only one in five believed they could remember everything without the video, and more than half of patients said their anxiety decreased.

"Medical Memory helped me and my family understand exactly what was going on," says Elizabeth.

Now Elizabeth is getting ready for her next surgery. And she's confident she'll remember everything she needs to know.

Doctor Porter says while some hospitals have openly discouraged doctors or patients from recording their appointments for legal reasons, he believes if you're practicing good medicine and telling the patients the right things, recording your interaction can only enhance your ability to deliver care.

Boosting your Medical Memory
REPORT #1992

BACKGROUND: Good health care begins with good communication. However, research indicates that as many as half of adults in this country have problems understanding health information. There are many reasons for this. Often, health care professionals use scientific terms that patients may not know. Sometimes, the amount of information given in a medical appointment can be too much to take in. Other times patients report they cannot remember what their doctor has said after they leave. (SOURCE:

HEALTH LITERACY: Health literacy refers to understanding how to get and use health information to take care of yourself. Taking steps to make sure you understand health information your doctor has given you is important, as miscommunications and misunderstandings can lead to dangerous situations where people do not receive the medical treatment they need. (SOURCE:

UNDERSTANDING AND REMEMBERING WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS: There are many reasons why people often don't understand or remember important parts of talks with their doctors. Stress, illness, anxiety, and compromising medications have been proven to contribute to poor recall after a doctor's visit. The following steps could help you remember your conversation with your doctor:

* Ask a family member or friend to go with you
* Take notes during the visit
* Try to picture (visualize) what is being explained to you
* Ask the doctor to explain in terms familiar to you
* Reword your question and/or the doctor's answer
* Verbalize (say) what you heard
* Take a small recording device like a tape recorder or cell phone with you

THE MEDICAL MEMORY: Some doctors are taking an added initiative to help their patients recall vital information. The Medical Memory is a video messaging service that allows doctor-patient visits to be recorded and uploaded to a secure website through a portable video device. The doctor records part or all of the visit, capturing crucial conversations and relevant explanations. After your visit, the video will be directly uploaded to your personal account. You can choose to watch the video as often as you want, and even share your account information with family and friends. (SOURCE:

For More Information, Contact:

Carmelle Malkovich
Senior Public Relations Specialist
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center

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