Background: Providing patients with an audiotape of their medical consultation has been a relatively common practice in oncology clinics for some years. However, broader generalisability of the technique has yet to be examined.
Aims: To investigate the efficacy of providing patients with an audiotape of their consultation in a general practice setting.
Design of study: Randomised controlled trial: 95 experimental participants, 85 controls.
Setting: Routine surgeries run by two general practitioners (GPs) in two different health centres.
Method: All patients attending GP appointments were eligible for inclusion. Patients were followed up by telephone 7–10 days later.
Results: More than half (61%) of the patients who received a tape listened to it. Among listeners, 64% rated the tape useful or very useful; 24% noticed information not heard in the consultation. Half of listeners (46%) said that their understanding of the consultation improved after listening to the tape. Half of the listeners (48%) shared the tape with others, of whom 71% found sharing helpful or very helpful. However, 21% of those who shared the information with others found this unhelpful or very unhelpful, suggesting that patients may need to be briefed on the potential risks of sharing. At follow-up a week later, it emerged that being given a tape had no effect on adherence with GPs' advice, nor on anxiety about conditions.
Conclusion: Providing patients with an audiotape of their GP consultation was positively rated by many patients. Although there were no detectable clinical effects at follow-up, the technique merits further evaluation in general practice.