January 5, 2022

Check-Back: Learning to ask the right questions

Good communication between consumers and their health professionals is fundamental to the provision of safe health care.

‘Teach-back’ is a communication method that health professionals sometimes use to check that they have been understood.

The process involves breaking health information down into small parts and then delivering it in ‘chunks’ and then ‘checking’ that the consumer has understood the information by asking them to repeat it back. This allows health professionals to clarify information that has been misunderstood or to provide the information again if it cannot be recalled.

“Teach-back is initiated by health professionals, yet consumers that worked with us on projects that aim to teach health professionals how to use teach-back told us that they wanted to be more actively involved in the communication process by initiating Teach-Back themselves,” explained Dr Rebecca Jessup, Allied Health Research Lead.

“Consumers told us that initiating Teach-Back themselves would increase their ability to act on information and would promote equal partnerships with their health professionals through better two-way conversations. This is in line with the recent evidence that involvement in shared decision-making may be associated with better health.”

In response to this feedback from consumers, Northern Health, in conjunction with Safer Care Victoria, Monash University, Monash Health and Ballarat Health Services, has developed a website that teaches consumers to initiate Teach-Back themselves. We are calling this new method of checking for understanding ‘Check-Back’.

Staff, consumers and volunteers from Northern Health provided their feedback on the barriers to good communication, contributed to the content of the website and have even starred in the videos on the site. The module includes some information about ‘Check-Back’ and how to initiate it with your health professional and a number of videos demonstrating its use.

“We are really proud of the website that has been created. The resource looks fantastic, is interactive and easy to navigate. We are excited to begin the next step of this project, sharing it with our patients and our community,” says Sophie Rodier, Manager Patient Experience and Consumer Participation.

To learn more about Check-Back, visit the website at checkback.org.

Staff can also learn more through the Teach-Back module on the LMS.