Communication is a vital aspect of the patient–physician relationship, however, patients often don’t understand everything they are told by their healthcare providers. This can lead to poor patient satisfaction with their care and even poor care management post-discharge.
The Teach-Back Method is one way you can ensure patients understand their medical condition and the steps in their care plan. Here are a few tips:
Ask the patient to tell you, in his or her own words, what they understood from the conversation. For example, “I’d like to be sure I’ve explained your treatment plan clearly. Can you tell me, in your own words, what the plan is?”
To avoid coming across as if you’re quizzing the patient, let them know that you want to make sure you’ve done a thorough job explaining. The patient will most likely appreciate the extra effort to make sure that you are on the same page.
In contrast, by simply asking whether the patient understands what was said, many patients may be uncomfortable to voice their doubts or concerns, as they feel it will seem like a lack of competence. Additionally, patients might have misunderstood what you, as a provider, are communicating. Asking for them to tell you what they understood will let you notice and correct any gaps in communication.
The Teach-Back Method will not always be appropriate. In situations where the patient’s cognitive functions or memory is impaired, it might not be useful to ask what they understood. Consider using the method with the patient’s family or care giver.
Making the Most of the Teach-Back Method
- Be intentional in your communication before asking the patient for their understanding.
- Try to minimize and explain any medical or technical jargon.
- Be cognizant of the patient’s level of education.
- Use diagrams or pictures to communicate when appropriate.
- Follow up with asking what other questions the patient has to encourage the patient to bring up anything not mentioned or confusing.
The next time you see a patient, keep the Teach-Back Method in mind. It will help you make sure the information you have conveyed is understood, and it will contribute to greater patient satisfaction and care.