Deficits in Retention for Verbally Presented Medical Information
Survey of Anesthesiology
Anesthesiologists deliver large quantities of verbal information to patients during preoperative teaching. Basic principles of cognitive psychology dictate that much of this information is likely to be forgotten. Exactly how much and what type of information can be retained and recalled remains an open question. Methods: With Institutional Review Board approval, 98 healthy, educated volunteers viewed a brief video containing a preoperative explanation of anesthetic options and instructions.
... d instructions. Subjects were then asked to engage in free and cued recall of information from the video, and to complete a recognition task. We developed a coding scheme to objectively score the free and cued recall tasks for the quantity of information recalled relative to the quantity presented in the video. Data are presented as descriptive statistics. Results: Subjects spontaneously recalled less than 25% of the information presented. Providing retrieval cues greatly enhanced recall: Subjects recalled 67%, on average, of the material queried in the cued recall task. Performance was even stronger on the multiple-choice test (83% of items correctly answered), indicating that the information was initially encoded. The category of information that was consistently least-remembered was presurgical medication instructions. Conclusions: Under realistic conditions for recall, most medical instruction given to patients will not be recalled, even if it is initially encoded. Given the limits of short-term memory, clinicians should carefully consider their patterns of information giving. Improvement of memory performance with cues for retrieval indicates that providing printed instructions for later review may be beneficial.