April 2, 2015. Phoenix, AZ. “Tell me what you heard”. It’s a clear way to make sure the message was received. But, in practice, it isn’t as simple as it seems. If you’re a parent like I am, you’ve probably said that phrase a million times and know that what’s recited back is rarely what was said in the first place.

The same is often true in healthcare. Studies have shown that depending on conditions, 40-80% of information discussed in a doctor’s appointment can be forgotten immediately. Of the information that is recalled, about half is remembered incorrectly.

“An even more disturbing finding is that patients often forget their medical diagnoses even when the conditions are serious. In one study patients could not recall 68% of the diagnoses told to them in a medical visit. When there were multiple diagnoses, patients could not recall the most important diagnosis 54% of the time. Some of the diagnoses in this study were serious, even life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and liver disease. In another study, patients and physicians agreed on problems that required followup for only 45% of the problems identified by the physician as requiring followup. When there was disagreement between the physician and patient regarding the need for followup, the likelihood of appropriate management was significantly lower.” Robert H. Margolis, PhD

Teach-Back. A group of diabetes nurse educators at Phoenix Children’s Hospital came up with a creative way to overcome this education hurdle leveraging the concept of “tell me what you heard” or teach-back. They created what they call a Journey Board, specifically with parents of children with diabetes in mind.

The Journey Board maps out each mini-chapter of learning as a step in a process. For example, the first three stepping stones are “I can tell you why my child is in the hospital”, “I can tell you what bothers or worries me most about my child’s condition,” and “I can tell you what medical tests my child is getting and what they are for”. The challenge for the parents is to teach back to the nurses as a milestone at each of those points on the journey.

Today, there are over 20 Journey Boards for different disease states and scenarios and two of those are being made into apps. Within the app, there’s also a tab with resources specific to that topic if more learning is required prior to teach back. And, there’s a notes section for the parents to use.

Born of a simple goal of improving parents’ knowledge about their child’s diabetes, the tool works for a number of reasons:

Bite-sized information. Each topic is clearly broken down into manageable groupings that are easier to retain.

Achievement-driven. The stepping stones identify actionable tasks in a gamified, achievement-driven format.

Reinforcements at-hand. The app provides resources that are available from a phone or tablet for reference-ready information.

For more inspiration on these topics, see our “Let’s Play” digital trend or “Content Isn’t King, It’s the Kingdom” marketing trend.


About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.