Are you selectively using teach back?

I’ve frequently discussed the value of teach back in evaluating a patient’s understanding. If the patient doesn’t understand or misinterprets your teaching, instructions may not be followed correctly and the risk for errors increases. Teach back lets you know if you need to teach the information in a different way, so the learner can understand and apply it.

Well, one study surveyed patients to find out if their doctors asked them to teach back. They found patients had significantly greater odds of reporting a teach back if they were African American, had non-English language preference, less education, increased age, or perceived that they had sufficient time with their doctor. The study concluded that some physicians seem to be directing teach-back efforts at certain patients, including those from demographic groups where lower literacy is more common.

That means that other patients who could benefit from teach back did not have their understanding evaluated.

Are you, too, selectively using teach back?

Don’t all your patients deserve the same level of care? Shouldn’t you be sure no patient misunderstands your instructions?

It’s interesting that those who were asked to teach back also perceived they had sufficient time with their doctor. Teach back doesn’t take much longer than lecturing alone, but using it may help patients perceive they’ve had enough time with you.

Resource:
Jager, A. J., & Wynia, M. K. (2012). Who gets a teach-back? Patient-reported incidence of experiencing a teach-back. Journal of Health Communication, 17(Suppl 3), 294-302.

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