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Fam Med. 2011 Apr;43(4):254-9.

New prescriptions: how well do patients remember important information?

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Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California-Los Angeles, 90024, USA.



Patients receiving more information about a new prescription are more adherent to their medication regimens and have better treatment outcomes. Yet it is unclear how much information patients retain when they receive a new prescription. This study aims to describe patient recall of information about new medication prescriptions after an outpatient visit.


We used a cross-sectional study of 117 adult outpatient visits to six family physicians. Direct observation of physician-patient encounters by medical students was used to document discussion of information about new prescriptions. Patient recall of specific prescription information was assessed by interviewing patients immediately after the visit.


When prescribing a new medication, physicians most frequently discussed the medication purpose (all visits), how often to take the medication (82%), and how much to take (76%). On average, patients recalled 86% (± 23%) of the information provided, and 64% recalled all information discussed during their visit. Of the 42 patients who failed to recall all of the information, 47% forgot how much to take and 42% forgot potential side effects, but only 24% forgot directions about when to take their medication. Complete recall of information about a new prescription was not associated with the amount of information provided, patient education, race, or duration of relationship with their physician.


Almost two thirds of patients remember all of the basic information they are given when a new medication is prescribed. Providers should work on improving patient education when prescribing new medications and should not be deterred by worries about poor patient recall.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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