Communication methods that convey content audibly and/or visually can be highly effective – even for consumers who have the skills and ability to read. According to Health Literacy Universal Precautions, videos are a particularly effective way to demonstrate self-care activities such as injecting insulin, using an inhaler, or exercising. Well over half of adults (65 percent) self-categorize as visual learners.
For consumers with basic or below basic literacy skills, videos and audio products offer a text-free way to learn. Screen readers are software programs that convert electronic text into audible form. The software can even describe electronic images accompanied by ALT text – short descriptions of the graphic or picture.
In busy health system settings, a great deal of information is delivered verbally. In this case, the communicator can use the teach back technique to confirm the learner’s understanding. Teach back involves the learner “teaching back” what they heard and understood in their own words. It not meant to test the learner; rather it is an indication of how well the information was communicated.
Advantages to audiovisual and verbal health information:
- Alleviates the need to read.
- Visuals can effectively communicate multi-step processes.
- Visuals and verbal instruction can help reinforce and expand on print communications.
- Audible communications are accessible to consumers with visual and cognitive impairment.
- A large amount of audiovisual health content is available for free.
- Content can be easily shared with others using a link or delivered to more than one individual at a time.
Considerations when communicating verbally or using audiovisual formats:
- Consumers need access to the appropriate devices and software.
- May require technical skills to access.
- Verbal communication can be hard to retain and easily overwhelm older adult learners.
- Requires privacy either in the form of a private location or privacy tools (privacy screen, earphones).
These resources offer guidance around audiovisual communication and tips for using teach back to assess the learner’s understanding.
- Links to other relevant areas of CHLS site
- Links to resources