The teach-back method is an essential technique used to improve patient health literacy and confirm a patient’s understanding of their medications before they leave the pharmacy. As patient education is one of the key roles of a pharmacist, it is vital for pharmacists to ensure that the medication information relayed is clear, concise, and understood by the patient. This can be done using the teach-back method, where the patient is asked to repeat the information they were just taught in their own words.
An example of the teach-back method is used in insulin teaching. After the pharmacist explains the features of an insulin pen to the patient, the pharmacist will demonstrate how to use the pen with the cap closed to prevent any needle injuries. The patient will then be asked to “teach-back” what the pharmacist said by demonstrating how he or she will use the insulin pen. The purpose of this method is to ensure that the patient can follow specific instructions and have a good understanding of how to take their medications correctly and safely on their own.
5 key points of the teach-back method
One: Adopt a caring, non-judgmental approach
- It is important to use a caring and non-judgmental tone of voice and attitude when counselling patients on their medications.1 This will help promote patient learning and avoid coming across to the patients as nonchalant or condescending.
- It is the pharmacist’s responsibility to ensure that the patient is comfortable during the counselling session, and this can be done by using plain language, listening to patients closely, and maintaining eye contact.1
Two: Use open-ended questions and the show-me method
- The following open-ended questions can help assess the patient’s understanding: “Could you please tell me what you know about…”, “Tell me, in your own words, how you would…”, “How would you know if…”, and “What would you do if …”.2 Avoid asking close-ended questions that can be answered with a yes or no.1
- The show-me method allows the patient to explain and demonstrate what they have learned in their own words.3 An example of this is, “Many of our patients often have trouble recalling how to use their inhalers. Could you please show me how you will use your inhaler?3“.
Three: Use reader-friendly handouts to aid learning
- Some patients may find it useful to have visuals available when being taught new information.2 Handouts should be simple, reader-friendly, and easy to follow as they are meant to support learning, not to further confuse patients.1
- During the teach-back, point out key information to patients on the handout to strengthen their understanding.3 Patients can refer to handouts when demonstrating back, but it is important to ensure that they are not simply reading the resource out loud word for word.3
Four: Re-explain kindly if the patient cannot teach back correctly
- If the patient is unable to teach back correctly, try explaining the same information in a different manner.3 Clarify with the patient again to confirm their understanding and ask patients to teach-back until they can correctly explain what they need to do in their own words.3 Repeat this until you are comfortable that they understand the information.
- If you notice that the teach-back results in a misunderstanding, respond with a gentle and empathetic approach such as, “I understand why you would think that is the case. That was previously taught to many patients in the past, but now research shows that…”.2
Five: Practice makes perfect
- The teach-back method can take some time and practice to become proficient at and conduct it smoothly and naturally. Thus, pharmacists should aim to practice this technique as often as they can until it becomes part of their routine.3
- 10 Elements of Competence for Using Teach-back Effectively. Always Use Teach-back! Retrieved July 7, 2022, from http://teachbacktraining.org/using-the-teach-back-toolkit
- Gopal, S. (2014, November 13). The “teach-back” technique can increase patient compliance. Rendia. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://rendia.com/resources/insights/teach-back-technique-can-increase-patient-compliance/
- Use the teach-back method: Tool #5. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2020, September). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://www.ahrq.gov/health-literacy/improve/precautions/tool5.html