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AHRQ and the Ad Council encourage patients to ask questions and get more involved with their health care

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has joined with the Ad Council to launch a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to encourage adults to take a more proactive role in their health care. The campaign entitled "Questions Are the Answer: Get More Involved With Your Health Care" was launched during national Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 4-10, 2007).

Medical mistakes occurring in hospitals account for an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 deaths each year or at least 120 deaths per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. These mistakes lead to more deaths per year than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. Research shows that consumers who get more involved with their health care can greatly improve the safety of their care, but patients are generally unaware of what to do to help prevent medical mistakes. According to a recent study conducted by AHRQ and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 57 percent of Americans do not believe that preventable medical errors occur often.

The PSA campaign, which was created pro bono by ad agency McCann Erickson Detroit, aims to encourage all patients and caregivers to become more active in their health care by asking questions. The campaign includes new television, radio, print, and Web advertising that directs audiences to call a toll-free number, 1-800-931-AHRQ, and visit the Web site at http://www.ahrq.gov/questionsaretheanswer, to obtain tips on how to help prevent medical mistakes and become a partner in their health care. The site also features an interactive "Question Builder" that allows consumers to generate a customized list of questions for their healthcare providers that they can bring to each medical appointment. The Web site also offers tips for patients to become more involved in their health care, including: bring a list of questions to each medical appointment; take notes in the examination room; make sure you receive the results of medical tests; and, upon leaving the hospital, make sure you understand instructions regarding followup care and medications.

Editor's Note: This campaign is just one important piece of the many efforts to improve the safe delivery of health care and reduce medical mistakes. For example, AHRQ worked with the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association to launch a campaign called "5 Steps to Safer Health Care" and has published a wide variety of materials in English and Spanish to help consumers receive safe, high-quality health care, which can be found at the Agency's Web site at http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/.

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