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PHOENIX -- From recalling the name of the diagnosis to specifics about a treatment, it may not be easy for patients to remember all the information doctors give them.

Dr. Randall Porter, a neurosurgeon with St. Joseph's Barrow Neurological Institute, has been working to make it easier for his patients by offering to record each visit on video.

He's one of a very few to do so.

"Patients frequently don't remember what their diagnoses are," said Porter. Many patients don't clearly remember what their treatment options are, surgical procedures and risks, even though they are explained to them as clearly as possible.

"Especially in a field like neurosurgery, we see patients of all types and varieties. Elderly, those who are on pain medications that can affect their memory, those who are stressed out, frankly," said Porter.

That's where Medical Memory comes in to play.

"We thought with the advent of the Internet and video on the Internet it would be valuable to offer patients a video and audio recording of their visit," he said.

The program has evolved from its infancy in 2008 of burned DVDs with a recorded doctor visit, to an online tool for the patient to access anywhere there's Internet access.

It's a simple process. Once a patient signs a consent form to record the visit, the patient will receive a username and password within 24 hours after the exam. They can then log on to the site and the video is available for multiple viewings at the patient's leisure.

"The video is uploaded to a HIPAA-secure website," explained Porter. It looks just like a YouTube video, but offers each patient a direct view into what the doctor sees.

"The camera is like a fly on the wall," he said. "The camera is on a mini tripod, we focus it on the patient and/or the doctor and act like there is no camera in the room at all."

The camera records everything. It may vary from being a simple visit where the doctor learns about his patient to more specific follow-ups. It could be as in-depth as explaining diagnoses and showing models of what a treatment option may be.

"It's watching through my eyes," Porter said. "I'm working while I'm videoing, perhaps sorting through the images, looking at the brain, decide what the levels may be and explaining to the patient what I'm seeing and looking for," he added.

Porter said without the video recording, many patients end up going online for answers to their questions, but run into generic explanations that may not relate to their cases. With their own personal video, they can watch and share their visits with family members who may also wish to be involved in the doctor-patient experience.

Even though the use of recordings in medical settings is not rare, few doctors offer the option. Porter said the use of recorded doctor visits is difficult to expand on a broader scale.

"It's a big financial investment," he said. "We're dealing with protected health information," he added. Ensuring medical records are protected takes a lot of revision by attorneys, review boards and oversight. That's why, Porter believes, not many physicians use the tool.

Overall, Porter believes recording patient visits improves the memory of each patient when it comes to their medical conditions.

In a recent compilation of patient feedback of those who paid the small fee to get their recorded visits, 4 out of 5 patients felt the video helped them remember what the doctor said. Ninety percent of the patients felt glad they had the option of watching the video multiple times, and over half felt watching the video eased their anxiety toward their medical situation.

As far as the video answering questions patients had after leaving the doctor's office, 85 percent agreed they found the answers on the video.

Porter is continuing to advocate for the use of video recordings in medical settings. He has plans to partner with other local hospitals and patent his program.

Trials are also on the horizon to expand on the benefits of video recordings with regards to Medical Memory. In the meantime, patients who see Porter and four others at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix will have that option, to never again forget what their doctor told them.

Martha Maurer, News Editor

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