Health information and system have become increasingly complex and harder to understand. Failure to address the communication needs of consumers impacts on people’s health and the safety and the quality of their health care. Low levels of individual health literacy contribute to poor access of health services, poorer health outcomes, increased risk of an adverse events and higher healthcare costs.

The level of interest in teach-back as a means of identifying and addressing health literacy is high. This is in part due to the increased emphasis on health literacy within version 2 of Standard 2 within the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (2017). It states “health service organisations need to communicate with patients in a way that supports effective partnerships”.

The national standards has three key actions, two of which related directly to teach-back.

2.8 The health service organisation uses communication mechanisms that are tailored to the diversity of the consumers who use its services and, where relevant, the diversity of the local community

2.10 The health service organisation supports clinicians to communicate with patients, carers, families and consumers about health and health care so that:

  1. Information is provided in a way that meets the needs of patients, carers, families and consumers
  2. Information provided is easy to understand and use
  3. The clinical needs of patients are addressed while they are in the health service organisation
  4. Information needs for ongoing care are provided on discharge

Using teach-back can support health care providers to meet the above standards because:

  1. It enables consumers to be active partners and engage with their care
  2. It draws on plain language techniques
  3. It checks understanding
  4. It is used during the health care interaction so any miscommunication can be addressed immediately
  5. Implementing teach-back as part of discharge planning has been shown to make a difference to health outcomes

Teach-back implemented at critical points of care enable consumers to understand and engage in their care. Done well it builds peoples health literacy and enables them to truly be in control of their health and health care decisions.

If you are new to teach-back learn more by using our online module. It only takes 45 minutes and could make all the difference for the next patient you talk to.