What to do when you forget what the doctor said

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Once, I told a perfectly sane, intelligent and otherwise coherent patient to wait in the exam room to have blood work drawn. He smiled, said thanks and followed me out the door. I told him again he needed to come back into the room and wait to have blood drawn. He smiled, said thanks again and walked down the hall to leave. When he opened the door to go to the reception area, I had to gently restrain him so he would actually listen to what I was telling him. He had no fear of the lab work itself. He was just nervous about being in an unfamiliar setting and didn’t comprehend what I was saying.

If you’re like a lot of patients, you forget much of the advice your doctor gives by the time you walk out the door. You’re nervous, traumatized or more concerned about getting out of the building in one piece. Either that or the doctor was too rushed to give you the information in the first place.

We have a new article that provides general instructions on what to do after treatment for some common ailments. (The advice is generic. Always get specifics for your case.) I also wrote a follow-up on common misconceptions I see in my office.

Have you ever made any mistakes treating yourself at home?

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H., is the publisher of www.MyFamilyDoctorMag.com, a Web site written by health-care providers for the general public.

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