(HealthDay News) — Physicians show better recall after reading evidence-based narratives, rather than summaries, of opioid prescribing guidelines, according to a study published online February 20 in Academic Emergency Medicine.

Austin S. Kilaru, from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues randomized emergency physicians at a regional conference to read either a summary of the guideline (control) or a narrative (intervention) that was constructed to match the summary in content and length. Participants were asked to list all content they could recall one hour after reading the text, with recall evaluated for six themes contained in the American College of Emergency Physicians opioid guideline.

The researchers found that, based on responses from 82 physicians, the mean total number of themes recalled per participant was 3.1 in the narrative arm versus 2.0 in the summary arm. The proportion of responses that recalled three themes was significantly greater in the narrative arm compared to the summary arm, with the differences ranging from 20 to 51%. Recall was significantly greater in the summary arm for one theme, and for two themes there were no statistically significant differences in recall between the groups. More than half of the responses in the summary group (54%) contained falsely recalled or extraneous information, compared to 21% of narrative responses.

“Physicians exposed to a narrative about opioid guidelines were more likely to recall guideline content at one hour than those exposed to a summary of the guidelines,” the authors write. “Future studies should examine whether the incorporation of narratives in dissemination campaigns improves guideline adoption and changes clinical practice.”

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