It’s a scenario that repeats over and over, every day, in doctors’ offices everywhere. Patients, and perhaps their family members, listen intently as doctors discuss diagnoses, tests, procedures and medications. All too often, patients are not writing anything down, presumably because they think they will remember everything they are hearing. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Why take detailed notes at doctor appointments? Because most patients struggle to remember what they hear, and to correctly recall the information; clearly this can have serious health consequences.
How hard is it to remember what you hear? Very!
A landmark study found that 40-80% of medical information provided by healthcare professionals is forgotten almost immediately. As one would expect, the greater the amount of information presented, the lower the proportion remembered. Of the information that was remembered, it was found that almost 50% was remembered incorrectly.
Results like these are convincing proof of the importance of taking detailed notes at doctor appointments. Don’t wait until you are home, or even in the car, to write down what you heard. You’ll forget the information by then!
Typing versus writing?
I am a big proponent of old fashioned writing – preferably in a notebook where you can keep all your notes together. Why? It is best if you can take notes without losing eye contact with the doctor, which can be easier with a pen and paper. Additionally, in a doctor’s office, you may have to stand to take notes, which can be difficult on a laptop or tablet. Lastly, if you use a tablet or phone, you may be a victim of auto-correct, with important words or phrases changed dramatically, leaving you guessing.
Can how you take notes impact your memory or understanding? A recent study on note taking by college students found that students who took handwritten notes in a classroom environment remembered the material better, and were able to synthesize the information better, than students who used a laptop to type their notes. It’s hard to say if this translates into note taking in a doctor’s office, but I’m guessing these findings apply.
If you want to keep your notes electronically, you can easily type up your handwritten notes when you get home.
You need to be the master of your medical information!
It’s hard to believe that in this highly digital world, doctors cannot easily see other doctors’ notes, medications prescribed, test results and other pertinent patient information. However, that is often the case, for many reasons:
- Not all Electronic Health Records (EHRs) communicate with each other. In fact, right now, most don’t.
- EHRs do not allow the doctor to record the patient’s entire story, or the doctor’s reasoning, leaving the next doctor with an incomplete picture.
- Doctors frequently do not communicate with each other – lacking communication up to 70% of the time.
Realize that as a patient, or family caregiver, it is essential that you take detailed notes at every medical appointment. Bring these notes, along with other relevant documents, to every appointment – even to the Emergency Room.
Taking detailed notes at doctor appointments is only one part of being engaged in your care. Read these blog posts for tips that can help you get the best care and outcome possible:
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- Communication Gap Among Doctors.
- Should You Record Conversations with Your Doctors During Your Medical Appointments?
- Being an Engaged Patient Can Help You Get the Best Medical Care Possible.
- 6 Tips to Better Manage Your Care.
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.