Teach back is still underused

Teach back has been in the literature for almost 20 years, yet we still don’t use it enough. Here are the conclusions from a national survey of plastic surgeons:

“Formal assessment of health literacy is rarely performed, as most plastic surgeons use a general impression. Although plastic surgeons devote significant time to patient counseling, evidence-based communication methods, such as the teach-back method, are underused. Simple, directed questions can identify patients with low literacy skills, to accommodate their communication needs.”

There were 235 participants in the survey, and they found only 8.1 percent use teach-back methods.

You don’t have to formally assess health literacy. In fact, that could harm the therapeutic relationship. But it is respectful to use teach back to make sure what you presented is clear. It’s also very effective at letting you know if you weren’t getting through, and you need to present it another way.

Lectures don’t teach. Conversations do.

Source: Vargas CR, Chuang DJ, Lee BT. Assessment of patient health literacy: a national survey of plastic surgeons. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014 Dec;134(6):1405-14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25415103?dopt=Abstract

Leave a Reply