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The Information Sandwich

What is the information sandwich?  It is a technique you can use to help patients learn new information by “sandwiching” the new information in between questions you ask them.

To make informed choices, patients need to have relevant, correct information about their options. This involves patient education during which patients obtain new relevant information that they will use when making decisions. For this process to be successful, the patient needs to have the new information integrated into their knowledge base. This integration requires several steps.
The patient will need to have...


  1. heard the information (not always easy if they are distracted or anxious)

  2. understood the information--which requires it to have been delivered in a language they speak, using terms they know

  3. remembered the information

  4. processed the information in order to recall it when needed

People don’t take in large amounts of information all at once. We are able to integrate quite a bit of new information more easily if it is broken up with questions.

Assuming that someone hears and can understand the information, these things can help ensure the patient integrates the new information so they can make an informed choice:


  • Limit the amount of new information that you give. Rather than telling them everything all at once, give small amounts of information at a time.

  • Follow each bit of information with a question, then give another piece of information.

  • The process of thinking about and answering a question requires someone to integrate information in order to give a rational answer.

  • Focus on the particular needs and knowledge gaps identified during the conversation. Individualize the information!

  • Give one piece of information sandwiched between two questions

  • Prioritize essential points.  Ask yourself:  what is the one thing they really need to know? Avoid giving a pathophysiology lecture.

  • Highlight important facts by presenting them first.


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