Tips to remember more of what your doctor says at your next visit

Tips to remember more of what your doctor says at your next visit

We’ve likely all been there. We’re arriving for a health appointment or about to do a virtual visit, and we start feeling a little anxious. It’s not unusual. Whether it’s knowing your blood pressure is going to be taken, worrying about test results or needles, feeling awkward asking embarrassing questions or just being uncomfortable changing into a hospital gown, nervousness can set in.

And that less-than-positive mood may affect how well we absorb the health advice and information we’ll get from our doctor or other clinician during our visit.

But a research report suggests becoming calm can help us pay attention and better understand health messages.

The research looked at results across four studies, which had a combined total of about 1,450 adult participants. The study participants first listened to an audio session of either instructions to help them relax or a lesson on history or other simple material. The relaxation techniques used included guided meditation and breathing exercises.

The participants then read information about such topics as flu, cancer, herpes or depression. Time reading the information was recorded and participants answered multiple-choice questions about the health information they had just read.

Participants who relaxed before reading the messages reported greater attention. They also answered more multiple choice-questions correctly, indicating they absorbed more of the health information they had read.

Although additional research is needed and the study focused on adults receiving written health messages, the results may suggest similar receptivity with verbal messages.

“When we’re tense, our brains are distracted,” says Dr. Stephanie Baginski, who specializes in family medicine at Aurora Health Care in Summit, WI. “When we’re more relaxed, we concentrate better and can more fully listen, receive and understand what someone else is saying.”

When preparing for your visit with your primary care doctor, specialist or other clinician, Dr. Baginski offers these tips:

  • Before your appointment, take some deep breaths or listen to calming music.
  • Download an app that has guided meditation sessions that you can listen to anywhere, such as the waiting room.
  • Stretch or go for a short walk to loosen up your muscles.
  • If you don’t think you can relax, consider bringing a trusted family member or friend to your appointment to take notes.
  • Ask your doctor to include the information in your after-visit summary that you can read after your appointment when you’re more relaxed.

Looking for an app that has guided meditation? Download the LiveWell with Advocate Aurora app that also has good-for-you recipes.

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One Comment

  1. I try to write everything down during the visit especially things I’ve outlined I want to talk about

About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.