During the past 2 years, AHRQ has crafted high-profile public awareness campaigns and multi-media outreach efforts to inform the health care decisions of millions of Americans. These range from the Agency's "Questions Are The Answer" campaign and a biweekly column by AHRQ's Director, Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., to use of radiocasts, podcasts, and Twitter to educate broad groups about a variety of health care topics. To help consumers take a more proactive role in their health care, AHRQ joined with The Advertising Council in 2007 to launch a national public service advertising campaign called "Questions Are The Answer" to encourage consumers to ask questions of their medical team. The campaign includes TV, radio, print, and Web advertising. It also includes a toll-free number and a Web site (http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/index.html) with an interactive "question builder" that lets consumers create a customized list of questions they can bring to their medical appointment.
In the 2 years since the launch, the campaign has generated more than one-half million total visitors (548,200) to the "Questions Are The Answer" section of AHRQ's Web site. Ad spots appeared on radio, network and local cable TV, newspapers, Web sites, and outdoor billboards and bus shelters.
In 2007, AHRQ also launched Dr. Clancy's biweekly columns written for consumers on topics ranging from how to recognize quality to how to find a doctor, hospital, or nursing home. These columns appear on AHRQ's Web site at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/columns/navigating-the-health-care-system/index.html. Last year, the 35-million member American Association of Retired Persons began running Dr. Clancy's columns on its Bulletin Today Web site. The columns appear under the heading "Finding Your Way" (http://www.aarp.org/health/healthyliving/).
As of September 2008, the column generated about 4,000 page views per day—readership that is expected to grow. Consumer-oriented, timely topics on health care quality, safety, and efficiency are also the focus of Healthcare 411 (http://healthcare411.ahrq.gov/), a podcast news series produced by AHRQ. Weekly 60-second radiocasts now air on nearly 300 radio stations nationwide and are featured on 9 worldwide shortwave frequencies. In addition, a 10-minute podcast produced by AHRQ on a biweekly basis is shared with more than 500 professional organizations such as the National Business Coalition on Health and the National Quality Forum.
For the growing legions of Twitter fans, a Healthcare 411 page has been created at http://www.twitter.com/Healthcare411. It contains more than 70 radiocasts and newscasts and is updated weekly. Since January 2009, Healthcare 411's Twitter page has gained 212 followers.
For more details, see "AHRQ uses tools to educate consumers," by Allan Lazar, Director of AHRQ's Office of Communications and Knowledge Transfer, in the April 1, 2009, Managed Healthcare Executive.
Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 09-R063) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.