How do we know that someone understands?
As healthcare workers, we provide the majority of health information to people.
In most cases, we think we are doing a good job.
For example, in one study 77% of healthcare workers thought they had explained the patient’s diagnosis clearly.
Only 57% of patients reported that they actually understood.
In the same study, 90% of private hospital patients said they were not told about medication side-effects, but 81% of doctors said they had explained.
Olson, D., Windish D. 2010. Communication discrepancies between physicians and hospitalized patients. Arch Intern Med. 170(15), 1302-7.
How do you know that the people you interact with understand completely what you are talking about?
Someone nodding their head doesn’t mean they understand. They may be being polite, or think they understand but when it comes to taking action they struggle to use that information. The correct answer is B. The only way to ensure they completely understand is if they explain back to you in their own words what you have just told them.
Correct. The only way to ensure they completely understand is if they explain back to you in their own words what you have just told them.
When someone asks questions, it demonstrates a need for clarification and understanding. It also shows they are actively engaged.
If someone repeats back to you word for word what you have just told them, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they fully understand. Asking people to explain in their own words means they have to think about the information from their own perspective and this helps with understanding.