Better Communication Between Clinicians and Patients Encouraged in New Campaign

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) launched an initiative with the Ad Council to encourage clinicians and patients to engage in effective two-way communication to ensure safer care and better health outcomes. For nearly a decade, AHRQ has encouraged patients to be more involved in their health care, and this new initiative builds on previous public education campaigns AHRQ has conducted under contract with the Ad Council around the theme “Questions are the Answer.”

This phase of the initiative features new public service ads directed at clinicians with the message that a simple question can reveal as much important information as a medical test. Research shows that better communication correlates with higher rates of patient compliance with treatment plans. This improved compliance can lead to better blood sugar control for patients with diabetes, for example.

“We know that when patients and clinicians communicate well, care is better. But in today’s fast-paced health care system, good communication isn’t always the norm,” Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, AHRQ director, stated in a press release. “This campaign reminds us all that effective communication between patients and their health care team is important and that it is possible – even when time is limited.”

An original series of new videos on the AHRQ website features real patients and clinicians discussing the importance of asking questions and sharing information. Several patients discuss how good communication helped them avoid medication errors or get a correct diagnosis. Clinicians stress the benefits of having their patients prepare for medical appointments by bringing a prioritized list of the questions they wish to cover.

The website also features new resources to help patients be prepared before, during and after their medical appointments. The resources include:

  • An interactive “Question Builder” tool that enables patients to create, prioritize and print a personalized list of questions based on their health condition.
  • A brochure, titled “Be More Involved in Your Health Care: Tips for Patients,” that offers helpful suggestions to follow before, during and after a medical visit.
  • Notepads designed for use in medical offices to help patients prioritize the top three questions they wish to address during their appointment.

The new ads for clinicians will run in donated space this fall in a variety of print and online medical and allied health journals. The print ads will reach a combined audience of more than 2 million clinician readers.

“We are proud to continue our efforts with AHRQ on this campaign that will continue to raise awareness about the importance of asking questions and having a dialogue with your clinician,” Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive officer of the Ad Council said. “The new video series clearly illustrates the critical roles of both the patient and the clinician and truly captures the benefits of the dialogue in improving health care outcomes.”

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