Guide to Improving Patient Safety in Primary Care Settings by Engaging Patients and Families
“I've been doing this [primary care] for a long time and didn't realize a lot of things are not heard. Teach-back is a wonderful idea; we think we're getting our message across and obviously we are not.”
What Is Teach-Back?
Teach-back is an evidence-based health literacy intervention that promotes patient engagement, patient safety, adherence, and quality. The goal of teach-back is to ensure that you have explained medical information clearly so that patients and their families understand.
In teach-back, you ask patients or family members to explain in their own words what they need to know or do. It is more than repeating what they heard. You ask them to teach it back. Teach-back is a strategy for you to validate that you have explained information clearly and that patients and family members clearly understand what you have told them.
Why Use Teach-Back?
Research indicates that clinicians underestimate their patients’ needs for information and overestimate their ability to communicate effectively with patients. In one study, up to 80 percent of the medical information patients were told during office visits was forgotten immediately; in another study, nearly half of the information retained was incorrect.
Patient misunderstandings and poor recall contribute to poor patient adherence and outcomes. Teach-back is a proven strategy to ensure patients and their families clearly understand information you communicate to them. Finding ways to improve communication between you and your patients and their families can directly address patient safety problems.
How Do We Implement Teach-Back?
Teach-back is most helpful when introducing a new concept or new instruction, such as a new diagnosis, new medication, new device (e.g., inhaler), or new home care instruction. Detailed implementation guidance is provided below.
Materials for Teach-Back
To get started, first download and review these documents:
- Teach-Back Implementation Quick Start Guide [PDF, 172 KB]
- Detailed Implementation Guidance—Full Guide, Appendix C [PDF, 302 KB]
Next, download and review the following document:
- Teach-Back Tips Job Aid [PDF, 123 KB]
You may also want to download and use the Training Toolkit. This Toolkit should be customized for your practice based on your planned implementation.
- Teach-Back Training Toolkit: