Does your doctor remember what you told him/her? If not, what do you do?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2017-03-02 16:27:59 -0600
Started 2017-01-20 22:44:33 -0600

Doctors have a hard job. No doubt about it. But when your doctor seems to be forgetting what he/she told you, that can be disconcerting. Here’s what a client’s doctor asked her:

“Have you had a chance to get to the lab yet? I want to get the results before I decide whether to take you off your supplement.”

My client didn’t remember him requesting that she get any testing done. And, in fact, he had told her to go ahead and discontinue the supplement on her last visit.

He also said: “Let’s go over your schedule for when you take your medications. As you remember, one needs to be taken before a meal and one after.”

While my client appreciated his thoroughness, they had already discussed this at her last meeting with him, and he had given her specific instructions. Didn’t he have it in his notes?

Have you ever been in my client’s shoes? Sure, doctors are busy these days. They go from one patient to another and don’t necessarily have time to go through all the notes for each patient. On the other hand, what if something important slipped through the cracks?

Teaming up with your doctor means helping him or her to do the best job possible in treating you. That might mean jumping in and doing a quick review to make sure your doctor is up-to-date on what you told him/her and what they told you during the last visit. It might also mean correcting your doctor when he/she is in error.

I wrote an article on this topic awhile back. Here is a link:

Do you ever feel like your doctor isn’t really listening? Or that he/she doesn’t review notes when meeting with you. Or maybe you are wondering what even goes into the notes?

What do you do when your doctor doesn’t seem to be keeping track of your treatment and his/her instructions? Any tips to share?

28 replies

codered51 2017-02-28 14:23:26 -0600 Report

My doctor puts everything down on computer she carries around. Prints off the sheet for me to take with.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-03-02 16:27:59 -0600 Report

Hey codered, great to meet you. And thanks for checking in here. That's a great idea for your doctor to use a computer like that. And nice for you to have information you can take home with you. That's very high tech.

suecsdy 2017-01-24 15:55:38 -0600 Report

My Dr has a very thriving practice, so no, she doesn't always remember everything I tell her. But she is a believer in technology and notes are kept in the computer system and she refers to them constantly during my visit. She DOES listen to what I say and when I was struggling with a decision over bariatric surgery, she was very supportive of how I felt. She is also very thorough and has uncovered several issues very quickly. I'm very confident in her care.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-26 14:17:33 -0600 Report

Hey suecsdy, sounds like you have a positive perspective on your doctor. You recognize that she is busy and human. It's always good to hear that doctors have technology to help them manage their communications and are making good use of it. That helps them and their patients. She sounds like a keeper..

MonsterToBe 2017-01-22 11:06:11 -0600 Report

My doctor has membership in one of the web-based, secure patient portals (I think it may be a recent requirement that offices are going to have to conform to? Not sure where I got that impression). I love it because she posts a care summary after each visit, which I can review if I've forgotten something or want to make sure the notes in my record are accurate.

Dr. Gary, your suggestions in the linked article are right in line with my usual approach. I'll typically do a classic "drive-through listening" response after first saying "Let me make sure I'm on the same page here…", and then add, "but I also remember we talked about [contradictory information]…" and usually the doctor will jump in right then to either correct himself or clarify why a decision changed, etc.

I have had a situation with a physical therapist, though, where I eventually had to switch. He was a great physical therapist, but I had seen him multiple times for multiple conditions. Eventually, he was pushing me to do things he was accustomed to my being able to do before a recent injury, leading to more pain and loss of function around the new injury instead of progress. We spoke about it several times, but after a session or two the issue would re-emerge. It wasn't so much that he didn't review notes before working with me as that reviewing notes wasn't sufficient to overcome the influence of all the memories of working with me on specific movements… which I could no longer do.

I still recommend people to that therapist, and am grateful for all the progress I made under his care. I didn't want to go find a new therapist, but sometimes what is really needed is a fresh pair of eyes.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-26 14:15:08 -0600 Report

HI! I am also a fan of patient portals, they are a great way to get your lab results, and keep them around for future reference. That is a great approach to starting the conversation with your doctor, tactful but also to the point. I can understand your frustration with our PT, that's for sure. Being pushed too far in PT is never a good thing. Thanks for checking in.

Kittiebitty 2017-01-22 09:38:01 -0600 Report

I've had pretty ignorant endocrinologists and primaries. They didn't listen to me at all and wrote me off as a type 2 since it seemed easier for them to do. It's this site and other diabetics I know that lead me to switch. I had a great endocrinologist. My new one that I haven't seen yet I will be taking notes and bringing notes to them. We'll see if it happens again but hopefully not. :)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-23 08:42:15 -0600 Report

Hey Kittiebitty, wow, sorry to hear you have had such bad experiences. Unfortunately, there are too many overworked but also just plain unresponsive doctors out there, sounds like you have run into too many of them. Glad that this site has been so helpful to you in advocating for yourself, something patients really need to do in this healthcare environment. And glad to hear you are taking notes!

GabbyPA 2017-01-21 18:20:40 -0600 Report

I use to take notes about my appointment discussions. That eventually stopped when all the doctor did was type into his computer. The dialogue pretty much stopped. He's not my doctor any more.
My new primary does a pretty good job and we talk a lot and that helps. It does still bug me sometimes when the per-appointment nurse goes over my file and I have to correct or ammend things. But I try to keep on top of it, because what goes in your records right or wrong affects a lot of things outside the doctor's office. So if anything is out of sync, I will get it corrected (at least that is my hope)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-23 08:38:21 -0600 Report

Hey Gabby. I have had that same experience. It is like talking to a robot out of Star Wars. Fun to watch in a movie, not so fun to experience when your health is at stake. I think you identify an all too common problem, with inaccurate information having been entered into the system. Who knows the impact this can have, right? I have had the same experience. Good idea that the office procedure is to go over your file with you. I often recommend to clients that they request to go over what's in the system, just to make sure everybody is on the same page. And you are right, errors in your record may impact your insurance coverage and, if the records are sent to another doctor, you care from them may also be impacted. Just one of those things patients have to watch for in this healthcare system we are living with.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2017-01-21 16:15:03 -0600 Report

I can say that I have had my doctor for at least 5 years. He remembers what I tell him. The best tool I have is MyPortfolio. All doctors I need to see are at one of the two major teaching hospital/universities in the City. Their system is computerized so they can see every medical problem I have. After each visit. I get my next appointment and a code to go into MyPortfolio. The same is true for every hospital stay or ER visit. Not only do I get a hard copy of my discharge papers, I get a code for MyPortfolio. I can go in and read my medical records including lab or other kinds of test results. I can also view all x-rays. I can also leave an email for my doctor and if I need to have him call me, I don't have to leave a message with the office staff unless it is urgent. I can also email him anything I need to discuss with him. I love this tool and it keeps us both on the same page.

Even if I have lab work done the office ALWAYS mails out the results and depending on the results, he will tell me to call him once I get them if he needs to discuss them with me immediately.

I think if the doctor isn't listening, you have to let the doctor know that you think he or she is not listening. If the doctor isn't listening and you remain silent about it, he is doing you a disservice and you are allowing it by not speaking up for yourself. The same is true if you ask a question. If the doctor does not answer ask why? You have to advocate for yourself, if you don't then odds are you are not getting the care you need. So my suggestion is speak up.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-23 08:34:04 -0600 Report

Hey Joyce! That sounds like a great system. It is exactly what I think patients need in this time in healthcare when doctors have less and less time to spend with patients, and patients are left with doing more and more of the legwork. It also sounds like you have a really responsive doctor. And I agree, that patients have to let doctors know of their concern and be an advocate for themselves. But I think that the system you described also gives patients an additional level of security and helps make sure everyone is on the same page. An additional protection in the event of human error and forgetfulness.

cmr55 2017-01-21 13:12:44 -0600 Report

I have had some doctors that listen and others that just disregard you, or do not believe what you told them.

robertoj 2017-01-21 09:11:41 -0600 Report

It is a little disconcerting that nearly every time I get a lab done I have labs from other doctors that I hadn't been informed of. It's not too disturbing since I have had labs done every week for several months.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-22 14:22:40 -0600 Report

Hi Roberto, wow that is incredible. Things are falling through the cracks for sure here. Another reason why patients feel stressed about their healthcare, and have to stay on top of things even more.

robertoj 2017-01-22 18:48:46 -0600 Report

Part of the reason in my case is the the​ number of doctors involved with my healthcare. With numerous health issues, I really can't complain. I do admire the diligence in which they monitor my meds.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-23 08:43:43 -0600 Report

Thanks for that additional perspective, Roberto. I agree that doctors are also under pressure, and it's hard for them to monitor patients effectively who are working with multiple specialists. Another reason for patients to stay on top of their care.

Type1Lou 2017-01-21 07:32:34 -0600 Report

Sometimes, the information in my case notes (I now get a copy of my endo's case notes of each visit for purposes of Medicare appeals) may not be the latest info. Without becoming confrontational, I point out the item requiring correction with any supporting documentation I might have. My doctor is very gracious about this. After all, we're a team.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-22 14:21:23 -0600 Report

Hey Lou, that's a really good idea to ask to review the case notes. A great idea. Glad to hear your endo sees this as a plus, helping him/her to do their job, and not a threat to their authority. Teamwork for sure.

granniesophie 2017-01-21 05:06:05 -0600 Report

Going on 6 doctors in 5 years. No, they don't listen, how could they in a 10 minute appointment? Little chart review, certainly they know nothing about me. I get prescription refills, we go over test results, maybe a prescription changes, probably not. Lots of misinformation is disseminated and I'm out the door. I spend more time with the person who takes information than with my doctor.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-01-22 14:20:19 -0600 Report

granniesophie, thanks for checking in. You said it so well. Doctors cover a lot of territory in too short a time. In one ear and out the other as a result. Patients are left having to keep notes and make sure their doctor is kept on top of things. That's more pressure on the patient.