Recall-Promoting Physician Behaviors in Primary Care

  • Jordan Silberman
  • Aleksey Tentler
  • Rajeev Ramgopal
  • Ronald M. Epstein
Brief Report

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0597-x

Cite this article as:
Silberman, J., Tentler, A., Ramgopal, R. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2008) 23: 1487. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0597-x



Effective treatments can be rendered useless by poor patient recall of treatment instructions. Studies suggest that patients forget a great deal of important information and that recall can be increased through recall-promoting behaviors (RPBs) like repetition or summarization.


To assess how frequently RPBs are used in primary care, and to reveal how they might be applied more effectively.


Recordings of 49 unannounced standardized patient (SP) visits were obtained using hidden audiorecorders. All SPs presented with typical gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms. Transcripts were coded for treatment recommendations and RPBs.


Forty-nine primary care physicians.


Of 1,140 RPBs, 53.7% were repetitions, 28.2% were communication of the rationale for a treatment, 11.7% were categorizations of treatments (i.e., stating that a treatment could be placed into a treatment category, such as medication-related or lifestyle-related categories), and 3.8% were emphasis of a recommendation’s importance. Physicians varied substantially in their use of most RPBs, although no physicians summarized or asked patients to restate recommendations. The number of RPBs was positively correlated with visit length.


Primary care physicians apply most RPBs inconsistently, do not utilize several RPBs that are particularly helpful, and may use RPBs inefficiently. Simple principles guiding RPB use may help physicians apply these communication tools more effectively.


communication skills medical education-communication skills patient education 

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan Silberman
    • 1
  • Aleksey Tentler
    • 1
  • Rajeev Ramgopal
    • 2
  • Ronald M. Epstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Rochester Center to Improve Communication in Health CareUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.VA Pittsburgh Healthcare SystemPittsburghUSA