Parents with infants needing neo-natal care find recordings of consultations with their consultants helpful, finds a study.
The parents of babies requiring care in neo-natal intensive care units (NICU) often do not recall the information given to them. Researchers in Australia set out to assess the usefulness of audio recording the conversations between mothers and their neo-natal consultants. Two hundred mothers with babies in NICU were put into two groups - the first had their consultation recorded and were given a copy of the recording. The second - the control group - did not receive a recording.
After ten days, and again at four months, the researchers interviewed the parents to document their recall of the diagnosis, tests, treatment and outcome of their babies, as explained by their neonatologist. The mothers involved also completed a questionnaire about their own general health.
Those who had received a recording had significantly greater recall of information in the diagnosis and outcome of their baby, and of tests and treatments. Six mothers could not remember any information - all of whom were in the control group.
Whilst the study found that audio recordings did not affect the mothers' general wellbeing, e.g. levels of anxiety or depression, the majority (96%) of those in the 'tape' group listened to the tapes and found them helpful. For babies with poor outcomes, the mothers who received the recordings were significantly more satisfied with the conversation than those in the control group.
The authors say that effective communication underpins family-centred care in NICUs and they suggest that neonatologists develop guidelines for the use of audio recordings.
Audiorecording of medical conversation has immense potential for research and may have implications for doctors working in other specialities, they conclude.