Patients are prone to forgetting critical information that could impact their health.
Recent years have seen a movement in healthcare towards adoption of care strategies that involved patient feedback and
opinions. The idea is to enhance the quality of care by better tailoring treatments to individual patients, especially
when considering those facing chronic diseases. The benefits
are evident in the form of enhanced satisfaction, resource allocation, and productivity for patients and providers.
Unfortunately, the efficacy of such patient-centered strategies are only as effective as the ability of patients to easily recall information from care visits. After all, a patient cannot adhere to instructions which cannot be remembered in the first place. Concerningly, the widespread nature of information recall is more prevalent than one may think. One study found that patients freely recalled only 49% of decisions made at healthcare visits while only another 36% could recall decisions with prompts.
The reasons for poor information recall are various and stem from various points in and after the healthcare visit. For many patients, decisions made at visits can resemble a "laundry list" of points including areas of diagnosis, testing, medication, diet, and lifestyle. Thus, patients are vulnerable to primarily remembering only the information presented first and last due to the respective primacy and recency effects. As one would expect, issues with recall generally worsen with age.
Mood complicates the ability to recall information too. Patients with too little or too much anxiety at the time of visits tend to have a harder time recalling information later on. Those who have little expectation of being diagnosed for a specific condition are also less likely to recall information pertaining to preventative measures.
While techniques such as more dialog with patients, written instructions, and asking of patient opinions can improve recall, these measures may not be able to ensure the most important bits of information are recalled. For this reason, some providers are forced to leave out lower priority instructions to stress specific points, which may nonetheless leave out critical instructions for other long-term health and wellness.