Factors associated with patient recall of key information in ambulatory specialty care visits: Results of an innovative methodology

PLoS One. 2018 Feb 1;13(2):e0191940. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191940. eCollection 2018.


While some studies have assessed patient recall of important information from ambulatory care visits, none has done so recently. Furthermore, little is known about features of clinical interactions which are associated with patient understanding and recall, without which shared decision making, a widely shared ideal for patient care, cannot occur. Our objective was to evaluate characteristics of patients and outpatient encounters associated with patient recall of information after one week, along with observation of elements of shared decision making. This was an observational study based on coded transcripts of 189 outpatient encounters, and post-visit interviews with patients 1 week later. Coding used three previously validated systems, adopted for this study. Forty-nine percent of decisions and recommendations were recalled accurately without prompting; 36% recalled with a prompt; 15% recalled erroneously or not at all. Provider behaviors hypothesized to be associated with patient recall, such as open-questioning and "teach back," were rare. Patients with less than high school education recalled 38% of items freely and accurately, while patients with a college degree recalled 65% (p < .0001). In a multivariate model, the total number of items to be recalled per visit, and percentage of utterances in decision-making processes by the provider ("verbal dominance"), were significant predictors of poorer recall. The item count was associated with poorer recall for lower, but not higher, educated patients.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Innovation*