Boosting Your Medical Memory

May 6, 2013

Good communication between patients and physicians is critical to care, but the average person remembers less than half of what doctors say during their office visits. Now there's a way to remember exactly what your doctor told you.

Neurosurgeon Randall Porter created the "Medical Memory." Too many patients couldn't remember the details of their stressful visits.

"They look like they understand what I'm telling them," said the Barrow Neurological Institute's Dr. Porter. " They seem like they understand and they come back to me a month later and say I don't remember a word that you told me."

The idea behind the program is simple. Patient visits are recorded from beginning to end. Then patients and their families can access the video online, so they can remember exactly what they need to know moving forward.

"So it's very helpful for them to be able to watch the video, look at their images, re-understand their illness, re-understand what we are going to do for them during surgery," said Porter.

Dr. Porter has used the medical memory in more than 1,000 cases.

In feedback surveys, 92 percent of patients said the video helped them remember more. Only one in five believed they could remember everything without the video, and more than half of patients said their anxiety decreased.

Porter says, while some hospitals have openly discouraged doctors or patients from recording their appointments for legal reasons, he believes if you're practicing good medicine and telling the patients the right things, recording your interaction can only enhance your ability to deliver care.

UNDERSTANDING AND REMEMBERING WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS: There are many reasons why people often don't understand or remember important parts of talks with their doctors. Stress, illness, anxiety, and compromising medications have been proven to contribute to poor recall after a doctor's visit. The following steps could help you remember your conversation with your doctor:

  • Ask a family member or friend to go with you
  • Take notes during the visit
  • Try to picture (visualize) what is being explained to you
  • Ask the doctor to explain in terms familiar to you
  • Reword your question and/or the doctor's answer
  • Verbalize (say) what you heard
  • Take a small recording device like a tape recorder or cell phone with you


THE MEDICAL MEMORY: Some doctors are taking an added initiative to help their patients recall vital information. The Medical Memory is a video messaging service that allows doctor-patient visits to be recorded and uploaded to a secure website through a portable video device. The doctor records part or all of the visit, capturing crucial conversations and relevant explanations. After your visit, the video will be directly uploaded to your personal account. You can choose to watch the video as often as you want, and even share your account information with family and friends. (SOURCE:

? For More Information, Contact:

Carmelle Malkovich
Senior Public Relations Specialist
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center

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