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Good questions for your good health --

March 7-13 is National Patient Safety Awareness Week

SPRINGFIELD Doctors, nurses and other members of the health care team at Baystate Health are committed to providing safe and excellent care for patients. And during National Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 7 through 13, they are encouraging everyone to be involved in their care.
The theme of this year's National Patient Safety Awareness Week, coordinated by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving patient safety and reducing medical errors, is "Let's Talk: Healthy Conversations for Safer Healthcare."
"National Patient Safety Awareness Week gives hospitals and health systems across the country, such as Baystate Medical Center, an opportunity to educate our patients to participate more effectively in their medical care and to highlight our efforts to reduce medical errors and improve safety," said Dr. Randolph Peto, medical director, Healthcare Quality & Patient Safety, Baystate Medical Center.
Good communication equals healthy patients and starts with the "Ask Me 3" patient education program designed to promote communication between health care providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to seek the answers to three questions:
What is my main problem?
What do I need to do?
Why is it important for me to do this?
"All patients should be asking their caregiver whether a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, therapist or other health care professional these three simple but essential questions in every health care interaction," said Dr. Peto.
The patient safety expert said studies show that people who understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They may also get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.
Dr. Peto recommends asking questions every time you see your doctor or are attended to by a nurse or pharmacist, when you are scheduled for a medical test or procedure, and when you get your medicine.
"Don't be embarrassed to ask questions, and ask as many times as you need to until you are clear. You are not alone if you find things confusing at times, and caregivers want to help you better understand what can often be confusing heath information and instructions," said Dr. Peto.
When asking questions and you still don't understand, try saying, "This is new to me. Will you please explain that to me one more time?"
"Once again, please don't be nervous about asking us questions. We want you to let us know that you need help because asking questions helps you to learn how to stay well or to get better," said Dr. Peto.
Dr. Peto suggested the following tips for clear health communication by telling yourself:
I will ask the three important questions I learned about.
I will bring a friend or family member to help me at my doctor visit.
I will make a list of my health concerns to tell my doctor or nurse.
I will bring a list of all my medications when I visit my doctor or nurse.
I will ask my pharmacist to help when I have questions about my medicines.
For more information on taking an active role to make your health care experience safer for yourself or someone you know, visit http://baystate health.org/patientsafety.
Among the resources available on the Baystate Health Web site include a "Partners in Care" brochure in both English and Spanish, Tips for Safer Surgery, 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors, and 30 Things You Can Do To Eliminate Infections.