Anticipatory guidance: How many topcis can parents remember?

February 1, 2006

Parents have a good memory for what anticipatory guidance topics their child's pediatrician addresses-even a month after a well-child visit. But parental recall does decrease as the number of topics increases, according to a new study. Investigators conducted their investigation in 861 families with children ages 2 to 11 years who received care from 26 practices in the Pediatric Research in Office Settings research network.

Parents have a good memory for what anticipatory guidance topics their child's pediatrician addresses-even a month after a well-child visit. But parental recall does decrease as the number of topics increases, according to a new study. Investigators conducted their investigation in 861 families with children ages 2 to 11 years who received care from 26 practices in the Pediatric Research in Office Settings research network.

Immediately after a well-child visit, parents and providers completed a survey to record which anticipatory guidance topics were discussed. Parents completed this survey-based on a checklist of topics-at the check-out window before leaving, and providers completed the survey before going into the next patient's room.

A month later, investigators contacted parents by phone and asked what they recalled discussing during the well-child visit. In both surveys, parents and providers largely agreed on which topics were, or were not, discussed. Agreement between parent and provider was highest when the number of topics discussed was between five and eight. When one to four topics were addressed, parents recalled more topics than the provider reported. When nine or more topics were discussed, providers reported discussing more topics than parents recalled.

Commentary I'm surprised that busy parents in a doctor's office remember as many as nine items covered during their child's visit. We need to continue to look for other ways to educate parents, such as collaborating with schools, community groups, and public health officials.