Can Docs Give Too Much Information?

Office visits covering too many topics might not help, pediatrics study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Parents bombarded by a bevy of health topics when they visit the pediatrician's office may forget much of what they hear, say researchers who observed typical doctor-parent interactions.

"The good news is both the provider and the parent agree about what was discussed. However, parental recall declines with an increased number of topics discussed," study author Dr. Shari Barkin, a pediatrician at Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a prepared statement.

Reporting in the November-December issue of the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics, Barkin's team observed visits to the pediatrician involving 861 parents with children ages 2 to 11.

Doctors discussed several health and wellness topics with the parents and the doctors and parents then filled out a survey about what they discussed during the meeting.

A month later, the parents were asked to recall what they'd discussed during the meeting.

"We found that when physicians discuss more than nine topics, recall goes down," Barkin said, adding that parents were usually able to remember up to seven topics. "Interestingly, when less than four topics were discussed, the parent remembered more than what was actually talked about during the visit."

"The bottom line is that more information is not always better. During a 15- to 20-minute office visit, we want to take full advantage of the time we spend with parents. We recommend the providers develop a shared agenda with each parent to make sure the children's health topics discussed are meaningful and remembered," Barkin said.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about children's health.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, Nov. 22, 2005

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