How can I help patients remember?

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How can I help patients remember?

Based on (Silbermann et al, 2008)

A study was carried out in 2011 which discussed the factors affecting patient recall of information following GP visits. It found that patients that had multi morbidities ( ie had to recall more information) recalled less. Lack of understanding and recollection will reduce patients satisfaction and adherence to treatment (Watson and McKinstry, 2009). Recollection declines with age (Kessel, 2003) and is most effective when combining oral and written information (Jansen et al, 2008). We’ve put together some top tips to help your patients remember information and therefore improve effectiveness of physio!


  • Avoid using medical terminology which is difficult to understand (Watson and McKinstry, 2009)


  • Keep it simple and use language that fits with previous education (ie if talking to another physio/nurse you may be able to help understanding with medical terminology- but don’t assume doctor/nurse will use the same terminology as physios!) (Watson and McKinstry, 2009)


  • Evidence suggests that people recall diagnosis best and advice or instructions least so perhaps off further written information to improve this recall. People appear to recall information best at the BEGINNING of the consultation.


  • Repetition: Repeating information may help.


  • Categorisation: Physio allows information to be categorised ie recommendations may be split into ‘lifestyles recommendations’ or ‘medical recommendations’


  • Summarisation: At the end summarise previous recommendations. ie “So i want you to go home and try to complete the exercises 3 x a day, apply the heat and then continue to keep active.


  • Importance emphasis: These exercises are important because they will help re educate the control around your shoulder. If you only complete them a few times we will not know if they are being effective before I see you next week. If you are unable to commit to performing these regularly perhaps book in to see me in 2 weeks instead.


  • Written materials: Providing written materials that patients can take away as visual cues and reminders will help to improve recall of information.


  • Patient understanding of assessment. Provide an opportunity for patients to clarify any areas they may not understand. For example asking “Do you have any questions? Has everything I’ve said been clear to you?


  • Explain rationale of each recommendation to the patient so that they understand why each instruction is important. ie It is important to massage around the scar site to help reduced sensitivity of the area and increase blood flow.


  1. Ley P: Memory for medical information.
    Br J Soc Clin Psychol 1979, 8:245-55.
  2. Kessels RP: Patients’ memory for medical information.
    J R Soc Med 2003, 96:219-22. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text |PubMed Central Full Text
  3. Watson PW, McKinstry B: A systematic review of interventions to improve recall of medical advice in healthcare consultations.
    J R Soc Med 2009, 102:235-43. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text |PubMed Central Full Text
  4. Kessels RP: Patients’ memory for medical information.
    J R Soc Med 2003, 96:219-22. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text |PubMed Central Full Text
  5. Jansen J, Butow PN, van Weert JC, van Dulmen S, Devine RJ, Heeren TJ, Bensing JM, Tattersall MH: Does age really matter? Recall of information presented to newly referred patients with cancer.
    J Clin Oncol 2008, 26:5450-7.
  6. Silberman J, Tentler A, Ramgopal R, Epstein RM: Recall-promoting physician behaviors in primary care.

    J Gen Intern Med 2008, 23:1487-90.

photo credit: Audringje via photopin cc

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