PSU Medical Minute: National Patient Safety Awareness Week

HERSHEY – Studies have shown that people who understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They also may get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.

The theme of this year’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week, which is observed from March 7 to 13, is “Let’s Talk: Healthy Conversations for Safer Health Care.” The purpose of the week, sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation, is to educate health care workers about processes and tools that contribute to the delivery of safe care in health care settings, as well as educate consumers about actions they can take to contribute to their own safety. The process “Ask Me 3” encourages health care consumers to participate in their care by asking the following questions every time they talk with a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or other provider of services:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

The National Patient Safety Foundation provides the following consumer information:

  • Who needs to Ask 3?
    • Everyone wants help with health information. You are not alone if you find things confusing at times. Asking questions helps you understand how to stay well or get better.
  • When is it appropriate to ask questions?
    • When seeing a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care service provider.
    • When preparing for a medical test or procedure.
    • When obtaining medicine.
  • What if I ask and still don’t understand?
    • Let your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other provider know if you still don’t understand what you need to do.
    • You might say, “This is new to me. Will you please explain that to me one more time?”
  • Your doctor, nurse, pharmacist and others involved in your care want to give you the information you need to care for your health — be ready to “Ask 3”.

Ask Me 3 is an educational program provided by the Partnership for Clear Health Communication at the National Patient Safety Foundation, a coalition of national organizations that are working together to promote awareness and solutions around the issue of low health literacy and its effect on safe care and health outcomes. For more information, visit

Rebecca J. Densmore is program manager of quality and regulatory management in the Department of Quality Services at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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