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Patient misunderstanding

In this video a daughter asks her father what the doctor said, but he is unable to reproduce this information.
ALEXIA: So how was your appointment at the doctor this morning?
MR JAY: Oh, it was fine.
ALEXIA: Fine. OK. But what did she say?
MR JAY: Well, she said a lot of things.
ALEXIA: OK. But did she tell you what is going on with your heart?
MR JAY: Well, she thinks they have to do more tests.
ALEXIA: OK. So what kind of tests?
MR JAY: Oh, it was such a difficult name. It was something like echo, echocardi, or echocardio something, but I will receive a letter about it.
ALEXIA: OK. Well, that’s good. Do you know when you will get the letter?
MR JAY: She said it should be the 3rd or the 30th. I’m not sure.
ALEXIA: Hm. OK. Well, what should you do in the meantime? Did she prescribe any medication?
MR JAY: Yeah, I got a prescription from her. Will you go to the pharmacy to get those pills for me?
ALEXIA: Yeah, of course. What kind of pills?
MR JAY: Well, they’re for my kidneys, she said.
ALEXIA: Your kidneys. But you have a heart condition. Maybe you shouldn’t be taking those pills until you see the doctor again.
MR JAY: No. Maybe that’s better. Oh, and she also said I had to change my diet.
ALEXIA: Well, I guess that’s good. Did she tell you what you should change?
MR JAY: Yeah. It was many things she said, but I should put less cesium on my meals, whatever that is. And I had to change eating meat, Not … stop eating meat, and quit smoking. And I should exercise more.
ALEXIA: OK. That also sounds good, but that also sounds like a lot to change. Did she tell you how to do it?
MR JAY: Oh, she told a lot, and she used so many difficult words I could not understand.

Patients often come out of consultations with healthcare professionals, not knowing exactly what it is they should do. We know from research that half of what a person is told is forgotten and half of what they remember is misunderstood.

Please watch the video of Mr Jay talking to his daughter Alexia about his appointment with the cardiologist he had this morning. Emily asks her father several questions which he is unable to answer.

What could have gone wrong in the consultation to result in the patient being unable to answer? Try to answer this question by reflecting on previous learning from Week 1, Week 2 and earlier this week.

If you want to read more about patients’ memory for medical information:

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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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