Why patients should record doctor visits

HOUSTON – Hundreds of patients are taking advantage of a new program at UTMB where the hospital is issuing audio recorders to patients, in hopes of them remembering and following the doctor's orders.

Retired attorney Charles Morgan knows the importance of record keeping.

“It's similar to a deposition, you can always go back, check your deposition, just the way you can go back and check what your doctor was telling you,” Charles Morgan said about the program.

“Go ahead, write it down, put in your cellphone, some place so that when we see you again we can try to answer it, or when you listen back to that recording you may find out we actually already talked about it and the question has been answered but now you can go back and recall what we said,” said, Dr. Avi Markowitz, chief of hematology oncology at UTMB. 

That's why UTMB is trying to encourage patients to record visits by providing some departments with recorders.

For Charles and his wife, the day it helped them most is the one that is foggiest in their memory: the day he heard "you have cancer."

“Because three of the scariest words in any language is ‘You have cancer,’ everything after that is just noise,” Dr. Markowitz said.

“We weren't expecting that diagnosis and I was totally unprepared. I have a phone, I could have done that on my phone but I didn't even think about it. I was just here like a deer in headlights,” Kathy Morgan said.

The Morgans said they were thankful the recorder was given to them and gave them power to understand the treatment plan because everything they could not remember could be referenced later and help them answer questions at home like, “When should we follow up? What did he consider a fever? What type of cancer is it?”

"Cuts down on time to call the doctor and say ‘what did you say?’ and then they have to look up in his notes too,” Kathy Morgan said.

Markowitz said having visits recorded gives them a mutual understanding of the patient's disease.

“The more patients understand about what's going on, the easier it is for them to interact with us. When you know why I’m concerned about something and why it's important, you can often feedback to me more appropriately and more timely, you also understand that there may be certain issues and certain side effects that are going to happen and they're okay and these are not things that need to freak you out, but if you have a question, the answer is always the same, pick up the phone and call us,” Markowitz said.

The Morgans said having audio recordings of their visits has helped them.

“My question is how come it took them so long to get around to something like that?” Charles Morgan asked.

Anyone is free to record a visit on their cellphone at any doctor’s office. The benefit to UTMB patients is, the recorders are sometimes provided and the doctors in their program are comfortable being recorded.