Teach-back (HLOL #129)

Dean's photoDean Schillinger MD is a practicing primary care physician and Professor of Medicine in Residence at the University of California San Francisco and Chief of the UCSF Division of General Internal Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital. He also directs UCSF’s research program about health communication with vulnerable populations. Dr. Schillinger has authored over 200 publications about this work. Dr. Schillinger recently co-founded a novel public health literacy campaign called “The Bigger Picture,” harnessing the voices of young people to help change the social and environmental conditions leading to the epidemic of diabetes in minority youth.

In this podcast, Dr. Schillinger talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Teach-back, a technique to arrive at shared meaning.
  • What to do (and not do) before, during, and after teach-back.
  • How teach-back can be freeing, not restrictive, for your practice.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 1, 2, 7, 27, 32.

Read the written transcript.


  1. Teach back has been integrated into the patient and family education system at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. If you’re having trouble visualizing how this works in practice, search your app store (Android and Apple, for tablets or smart phones) for “Our Journey” You will find free apps that toggle between English and Spanish on a range of topics — more coming out every few months — including Our Journey with Asthma and Our Journey with Surgery. They offer families teach back points to use with their health care teams, links to resources, and a place to take notes.
    These were developed with grant dollars, and available for everyone to use. They normalize the use of teach back, facilitate conversations, and encourage questions.

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