"Studies have shown that 40-80% of the medical information patients are told during office visits is forgotten immediately, and nearly half of the information retained is incorrect."
-The Teach Back Method
As partners in our healthcare decisions, it is becoming even more important that we have complete understanding of the healthcare information we receive. While it is the healthcare providers job to deliver the information in a clear and understandable way, it is also our responsibility to ensure that we understand what has been given to us. One way that we can ensure that we are doing our part as patients is using the Ask Me 3 method. There are 3 important questions that patients should ask their healthcare providers at every appointment.
What is my main problem?
What do I need to do?
Why is it important for me to do this?
You may already have a habit of asking some version of these questions, which is great! If not, this is a practice you should consider starting. These questions will ensure that you receive all of the information you need in order to make appropriate healthcare decisions. Having a clear understanding of the problem and diagnosis will empower you to act.
After providing you with the information you need, your healthcare provider may ask you to repeat what has been explained to you or may ask you to explain what your next steps are. The provider may do this several times throughout the appointment, after each "chunk" of information that is provided. This is not meant to be a nuisance or a way to quiz you, instead this is a part of the Teach Back or Show Me method. This method is meant to ensure that the healthcare provider has adequately explained everything to you. By asking you to tell him/her the next steps or demonstrate your ability to follow instructions on a new prescription or medical device (example: an inhaler or walking with crutches), he/she is able to confirm that you understand. Even if your doctor doesn't ask you to do this, it is good practice to do so anyway. Take a moment and repeat instructions or ask the doctor to check that you are using a device properly.
There are a few important things to consider as a patient that may help you get through any appointment.
Be Confident: There is nothing wrong with asking your provider questions. Some people feel that they are not supposed to question their providers because they think it is not their "place". This is simply not true, questions are helpful for both you and your provider.
Take Notes: Our brains can only take in but so much information at a time and remember it. There is no harm in writing down the things you would otherwise need to remember.
Bring support: This is especially helpful if you are sick, in pain or worried about an appointment. Having a trusted family member or friend at the appointment with you can help to make sure you get all of the information you need.
Prepare: If you know that the you are going into an appointment that may be intimidating or stressful, plan for it beforehand. Write down your questions, symptoms and concerns. DO NOT go online and self-diagnose before your appointment, this may cause unnecessary stress for you.
You are fully capable of getting through every appointment with complete understanding of the information you receive.
IHS. (2008). Ask me TM 3 good questions for your good health. Retrieved from https://www.ihs.gov/healthcommunications/documents/AskMe_8-pg_NatAmer.pdf
Use the Teach-Back Method: Tool #5. Content last reviewed February 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/quality-resources/tools/literacy-toolkit/healthlittoolkit2-tool5.html
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"Improving our health literacy so that we all may live healthier, more abundant lives."