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ADD and Memory: The Doctor's Visit

Getting More from Your Doctor’s Appointment


Updated January 08, 2011

Have you ever been to a doctor’s appointment, either for yourself or your child, returned back home following the visit and then realized you could not remember all the important information the doctor said?

If you responded “yes,” you are not alone. Visits to the medical doctor, dentist, eye doctor, etc. can sometimes feel like a busy whirlwind even with the smoothest running offices and best, most well-intentioned doctors.

A study published in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that doctors don’t often take the steps necessary to help their patients recall medical instructions. “It is common for patients to forget half of what they’re told in a medical visit,” says Jordan Silberman, the study’s lead author. “Obviously, this is a cause for concern. As noted by the British researcher Philip Ley, ‘if the patient cannot remember what he is supposed to do, he is extremely unlikely to do it.’ No matter how effective a treatment is, it can be rendered useless by poor recall.”

If it is common for the general population to have a tough time remembering, imagine the additional difficulties an individual with ADD may have. It may be hard to maintain focus through the entire appointment, to keep intervening thoughts at bay, to tease out the most important information, and to recall this information later. When you struggle with any of these issues, it is easy for details of the doctor’s appointment to get lost.

Also, imagine a doctor giving instructions to a parent with an ADHD child in the room. It may be hard to tune into all the essential points while at the same time supervising your child.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Visit

Here are some simple strategies to help the next time you are in the doctor’s office:

  1. Take a pad and pen to the appointment and write down key information.
  2. Ask the doctor to summarize important points.
  3. Write down treatment instructions.
  4. To make sure you have correctly understood the doctor’s instructions, read them back to him.
  5. If writing is difficult for you, ask the doctor to write the instructions down for you –- just make sure you can read his handwriting!
  6. Sometimes doctors will have pre-printed information for common medical issues. Ask the doctor if these written materials are available for you and let him know you’d like a copy to take home.
  7. Always ask questions if you ever have any uncertainties or if you haven’t thoroughly understood the doctor’s words.

Following these simple tips will help with recall once you are back at home. When you remember and properly understand the doctor's advice, treatment is so much more effective.

Additional Reading:
The Wandering Mind
Moms with ADD/ADHD
Keep Those Commitments and Improve Relationships
Signs and Symptoms of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
Is Impulsive Spending Breaking Your Budget?
Getting Those Bills Paid On Time
Friendships and ADHD
Tips for Approaching Social Situations


University of Rochester Medical Center. Hurried Doctor Visits May Leave Patients Feeling Forgetful. June 26, 2008

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