Blog | Monday, April 30, 2012

Questions are the answer


One of the advantages of having a blog has given me incredible opportunities to works with so many doctors, patients and others interested in health care. However, one of the disadvantages is the solicitations. I get at least one email a day from someone (usually who is trying to sell something) asking me to post content on their product or ad links on my blog to their web site.

I almost always decline or just simply delete the request. I almost deleted the request the other day, when I quickly realized the requester's email ended in a ".gov." Apparently, AHRQ is using social media to try to reach out to people.

AHRQ stands for The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and for those in the know, is pronounced "ark." According to their website, AHRQ's mission is: "To improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. As 1 of 12 agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, AHRQ supports research that helps people make more informed decisions and improves the quality of health care services. AHRQ was formerly known as the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research"

As a primary care physician who spends a lot of time with patients trying to help them make the best decisions for their health, AHRQ is a group I like to get behind. Their latest campaign which thy contacted me about is "Questions Are the Answer." The essence of their campaign is to educate patients that the best way to take care of themselves is to ask their doctors questions.

This may seem pretty obvious, but patients are often reluctant to ask us questions. They may be embarrassed for asking something that they think we might think sounds stupid. They may feel that we should be the ones asking questions. They may think that is something is important, we would have told them. The reality is that health care done right is a two way communication between doctor and patient, with both parties listening and asking questions.

Thus, I have therefore broken my usual rule, and posted a solicitor's content on my site. Their content is below. As the politicians say, "I have approved this message."

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When patients become more actively involved in their own health, there's a much stronger likelihood their health outcomes will be better.

That's why "Questions are the Answer," a new public education initiative from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), encourages patients to have more effective two-way communication with their doctors and other clinicians.

"Questions are the Answer" features a website -- www.ahrq.gov/questions -- where you will find these free educational tools to use with your patients:

A 7-minute video featuring real-life patients and clinicians who give firsthand accounts on the importance of asking questions and sharing information – this tool is ideal for a patient waiting room area and can be set to run on a continuous loop.

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 to help patients prioritize the top three questions they wish to ask during their medical appointment.

Clinicians can request a free supply of these materials by calling AHRQ at 1-800-358-9295 or sending an e-mail to AHRQpubs@ahrq.hhs.gov.

View Campaign Website
View Featured PSAs
View Original Video Series

Matthew Mintz, MD, is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He is board certified in internal medicine and has been practicing for more than a decade. He is also an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients. This post originally appeared at Dr. Mintz' Blog. Conflict-of-interest disclosures are available here.