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HHS Announces Campaign with Hospitals and Physicians to Distribute Information about Safer Health Care

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HHS Press Release Date: August 4, 2003

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Medical Association (AMA), today announced a campaign to help distribute valuable information about improving patient safety to health care providers and patients across the country.

HHS is working with the AHA and the AMA to promote new posters and fact sheets called 5 Steps to Safer Health Care. 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 its 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 and procedures and surgery. The tips were developed through a joint effort of AHRQ, HHS' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Department of Labor. In particular, these materials, which are available in English and Spanish, emphasize that good communication between health care providers and patients can often reduce a potential source of problems in today's increasingly complex health care system. The tips are also included in the Medicare & You handbook, which is mailed to about 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 exam rooms to help encourage dialogue between patients and providers about health care 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, M.D, said. "These 5 Steps to Safer Health Care 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 5 Steps to Safer Health Care are available on the Web in English at or in Spanish at Copies also are available by calling AHRQ's Publications Clearinghouse at 1-800-358-9295 or by sending an E-mail to

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1865.


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