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Teach-back: A guide for staff

Brought to you by Patient and Family Education at Unity Health Toronto
What is teach-back?


Teach-back is a check of your success in communicating information to patients/family members. It involves asking patients to explain back information in their own words.

Teach-back is an evidence-based health literacy intervention. It promotes patient engagement, patient safety, adherence and quality. (AHRQ Teach-Back Implementation Quick Start Guide)

Use this guide to learn more about teach-back and how to use it effectively with patients.


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Interactive Learning Modules

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  • Always use teach-back interactive learning module
  • A 45 minute module that includes several videos with examples of how to use teach-back effectively in various situations. Part of Always Use Teach-Back toolkit, supported by American Medical Association and the Picker Institute.

Anderson JL, Dodman S, Kopelman M, et al. Patient information recall in a rheumatology clinic. Rheumatology 1979 18(1):18-22.

Dinh H, Bonner A, Clark R, et al. The effectiveness of the teach-back method on adherence and self-management in health education for people with chronic disease: a systematic review. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep 2016;14(1):210-47. Accessed September 15, 2016.

Kessels R. Patients’ memory for medical information. J R Soc 2003:96:219-222.

Schillinger D, Piette J, Grumbach K, et al. Closing the loop: physician communication with diabetic patients who have low health literacyArch Intern Med. 2003;163(1):83-90. Available at: Accessed: June 29, 2012.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.(2010). National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. Washington, DC. Available at: Accessed: November 29, 2016.

Zolnierek KB, DiMatteo MR. Physician communication and patient adherence to treatment: a meta-analysis. Med Care 2009 Aug;47(8):826.

Contact Us

To arrange a workshop or presentation on teach-back at Unity Health Toronto, please contact the Patient and Family Education Program at