Psychology Brown Bag Discussion

Recalling Health Information: The Role of Communication Modality, Summarization, and Gender

September 17, 2010
12:20 p.m.-1:10 p.m.

Uhler Hall, Room 116

Presented by Dr. Tara Johnson

Elephant Café Brown Bag Series presents “Recalling Health Information:
The Role of Communication Modality, Summarization, and Gender,” by Dr. Tara Johnson.

Patients typically hear health information from their physicians
once, which may not be the optimal communication method for patient
recall of health information. The purpose of this study was to
investigate whether the modality (visual or auditory) of initial health
information interacts with the modality of summarization to influence
the delayed recall of health facts.

College students were randomly assigned to a communication modality
condition (visual/read or auditory/hear) as well as to a summary
condition (visual/read, auditory/hear, or control/no summary). After a
fifteen-minute delay, participants freely recalled health facts
regarding Chagas disease. Information presented in the visual modality
resulted in better recall than information presented in the auditory
modality. Also, a summary in either modality (visual or auditory) was
better than no summary at all.

However, the optimal summary modality was dependent on how the health
information was first presented. When patients initially read health
information, it was best for the summary to be verbal. However, when
patients initially heard health information, any type of summary was

Summarizing health information improves recall. If time with patients
is limited, our results suggest that it is not necessary to provide
verbal summaries of health information; written summaries (e.g.,
brochures, websites) could also increase patient recall. Physicians
should find the most efficient way to provide patients with health
summaries to improve patient adherence to protocol, thereby decreasing
potential health-related risks.

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