Original Research

Use and Effectiveness of the Teach-Back Method in Patient Education and Health Outcomes

A review of the literature on the teach-back method of education suggests that the technique may be beneficial in reinforcing patient education.

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Studies have shown that a majority of patients remain confused about their health care plans after being discharged from the hospital.1,2 Furthermore, most patients do not recognize their lack of comprehension.2 A substantial proportion of medical information is forgotten immediately after discharge. Kessels found that when larger amounts of information were presented, less was recalled, and almost half of the recalled information was incorrect.3 Researchers also have found that health information that was focused on individual needs not only increased patients’ understanding of their health needs and improved their health literacy, but supported self-management and promoted health outcomes for adults with chronic illness.4,5

Health literacy is the “capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”6 To read instructions on a prescription bottle, patients need an intermediate level of health literacy. Even for patients with such a level of health literacy, comprehending and managing a health care plan for a chronic disease can be challenging. About 35% of Americans had lower than an intermediate level of health literacy.7 Insufficient health literacy is associated with increased health system use and costs, health disparities, and poor health outcomes.8 As a result, it is crucial to gear oral instructions to patients’ health literacy levels to ensure that patients understand health information and instructions and perform self-care at home. The teach-back method, a technique for verifying patients’ understanding of their health information, has been recommended by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) as a strategy for taking universal precautions for health literacy. Patients are asked to repeat the instructions they receive from their health care professionals (HCPs). HCPs should use caring and plain language in a shame-free environment during patient education. By using the teach-back method, HCPs can assess patients’ understanding, and reteach or modify teaching if comprehension is not demonstrated. Patients have an important role in their health and their ability to understand health information has a significant impact on their health behavior and outcomes.

In our systematic research, we examined the effectiveness of using the teach-back method to understand health education as well as the impact of this method on patients’ disease self-management and health outcomes.


In the teach-back method, patients explain health information in their own words.9 To gauge the use and effectiveness of this method, investigators have studied patient perceptions and acknowledgments of the method as well as the effects of the method on health interventions. According to Dorothea Orem’s self-care deficit nursing theory, disease self-management is an “executive ability” to “control, handle, direct or govern” self-care activities.10 We define disease self-management as disease knowledge and disease management changes that promote self-care activities. In addition, we define health outcomes as health changes that result from the teach-back method, such as changes in postdischarge readmission rates, patient satisfaction, and health behavior.


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