An estimated 50 percent of patients leave their medical visits without understanding what their physician told them.1
In an attempt to avoid this problem, many physicians present their instructions and then ask the patient, “Do you understand?” But most patients will say “yes” to this question even if they don’t understand.
A better approach is to use the teach-back technique and ask, “Just to be sure I was clear, how will you do X?” — as in “How will you take your new medicine,” “help control your diabetes,” or “use your inhaler?”
If the patient’s explanation is not correct, repeat the instruction and ask him or her to explain it again.
1. Bodenheimer T. A 63-year-old man with multiple cardiovascular risk factors and poor adherence to treatment plans. JAMA. 2007;298(17):2048–2055.
Read the full FPM article: “Teach-Back: A Simple Technique to Enhance Patients’ Understanding.”
Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights," featuring practical, peer-reviewed advice for improving practice, enhancing the patient experience, and developing a rewarding career.