|According to the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, nine out of 10 patients do not receive health
information in a way they can use or understand it. And according to
many medical and nursing professionals, that can harm a person's health
and lead to errors in hospitals and clinics.|
"Only about 50 percent of patients take medications as directed," says
Sean Keyser, vice president for operational improvement at Novant
There is a very simple solution, however, that's scientifically proven
to improve patient care and healthcare literacy, according to Keyser.
It's called "Ask Me 3," and Novant Health hospitals and Novant Medical
Group physician offices have adopted this powerful new initiative with
the goal of improving the patient's overall healthcare experience.
The program centers around three simple and practical questions that all
patients should ask their healthcare providers: 1) What is my main
problem?; 2) What do I need to do about it?; 3) Why is it important for
me to do this?
For many people, these basic questions seem like an oversimplified
strategy to improve a person's health, but Keyser says that Ask Me 3 is a
powerful tool that can help people understand confusing healthcare
jargon and instructions.
The three-question approach guides patients through their healthcare
experience and encourages them to become more actively involved.
Physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other caregivers use the three
questions to explain the illness or injury to the patient. Then, at the
end of the visit, the patient gets a "pop quiz," where the caregiver
asks, "what do you have, what do you need to do at home and why?" At
this point, most patients can easily answer the three "pop quiz"
Ask Me 3 was created by The Partnership for Clear Health Communication
to encourage all patients to get involved in the quality of their care
and to improve health literacy. According to the national organization,
health literacy affects all socio-economic groups and is one of the
strongest predictors of an individual's health status. In other words,
the more someone understands his or her medical condition, the better
the individual's overall health status.
"Low health literacy can affect anyone, because it's a language people
don't use every day," comments Keyser. "And individuals cannot remain
healthy or improve their health if they don't understand what they need
The National Patient Safety Foundation cites research showing that
patients with low health literacy skills have a 50 percent increased
risk of hospitalization compared with patients who have adequate health
literacy skills. Research also suggests that people with low literacy
make more medication or treatment errors, are less able to comply with
treatment instructions and lack the skills needed to successfully
negotiate the healthcare system.
In fact, many patients don't process all of the information given to
them until they've left the office or hospital and get back home. Plus,
this program is especially helpful for patients who cannot read.
The national Ask Me 3 initiative suggests a few additional tips for patients:
Novant Health posts Ask Me 3 information in its hospital, physician
clinics and outpatient centers for patients, families and visitors, in
addition to publishing it on the organization's website,
- Bring a friend or family member to help and take notes during your appointment.
- Make a list of your health concerns prior to your appointment to tell your doctor, physician assistance or nurse.
- Bring a list of all your medications, including vitamins and herbal supplements, when you visit your doctor's office.
- Ask your pharmacist for help when you have questions about your medications.
Keyser encourages patients to use the three questions at the hospital,
doctor's office, pharmacy, nursing home and with any other healthcare