HHS Announces Campaign With Hospitals and Physicians to Distribute Information About Safer Healthcare

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Medical Association (AMA), has announced a campaign to help distribute valuable information about improving patient safety to healthcare providers and patients throughout the country.

HHS is working with the AHA and the AMA to promote new posters and fact sheets titled "Five Steps to Safer Healthcare." The posters and fact sheets offer evidence-based, practical tips on the role that patients can play to help improve the safety of the care that they receive.

"Patients have an important part to play in reducing the chance that something unintended may happen when they go to the hospital or doctor's office," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "It's really important for people to ask questions if they have any doubts or concerns about their medicines or the treatments they are supposed to receive."

Led by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS is working to reduce the risks that patients may face in the course of receiving health care services. The AHA and AMA have patient safety initiatives underway as well.

The new posters and fact sheets provide tips that could help patients avoid errors related to prescription medicines, laboratory tests, procedures, and surgery. The tips were developed through a joint effort of AHRQ, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Office of Personnel Management, and the US Department of Labor. These materials, which are available in English and Spanish, emphasize that good communication between health care providers and patients often can reduce a potential source of problems in today's increasingly complex health care system. The tips also are included in the "Medicare & You" handbook, which is mailed to approximately 39 million Medicare households each year.

The AHA and AMA are encouraging hospital leaders and physicians to hang the posters in their waiting rooms and examination rooms to help encourage dialogue between patients and providers about healthcare safety. The groups also are distributing the posters through mailings and meetings.

"Patient safety must involve everyone-patients and families, physicians, hospitals, and other providers of care-to prevent errors and improve the quality of care for all Americans," AHA President Dick Davidson said. "We hope this important campaign stimulates the kinds of conversations among patients, physicians, and nurses that result not only in fewer errors but also in patients and families more involved in their care."

"Patient participation has such a positive impact on the success of medical outcomes," AMA President Donald J. Palmisano, MD, said. "These five steps to safer healthcare can help improve communication among all members of the health care team-with the patient at the center of that team. Step one is particularly critical: `Ask questions if you have doubts or concerns.' It sounds simple, but it's essential."

Copies of Five Steps to Safer Health Care are available in English at http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/5steps.htm and in Spanish at http://www.ahrq.gov/ consumer/cincorec.htm. Copies also are available by calling AHRQ's publications clearinghouse at (800) 358-9295 or by sending an e-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.gov.