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The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has been pursuing one mission since its founding in 1997 – to improve the safety of care provided to patients and to encourage and strengthen collaboration between healthcare providers, patients and their families.

The Annual Patient Safety Week, which was held this year March 7 – 13, is designed to highlight improved patient-provider communication as a vital part of keeping patients safe. This year, the NPSF placed special emphasis on efforts to reduce medication errors and lower hospital readmission rates. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study analyzing close to 12 million fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries, nearly 20 percent of those discharged from a hospital were re-admitted within 30 days; 34 percent were re-hospitalized within 90 days, and 54 percent, within a year. Medication errors played a large, preventable role in these readmissions.

Some of the most dangerous situations for a patient are when there is poor communication between the patient and their health care provider. Imagine being told by a doctor that you have "hypothyroidism," "hypertension" or "coronary disease." Do you know what it means? Now, what if the doctor told you that you that your thyroid gland did not produce enough thyroid hormones, you had high blood pressure, or heart disease? Although more recognizable terms, do you really know what they mean, how they affect your health, or how to treat these conditions?

According to the Institute of Medicine, nearly half of all American adults have difficulty understanding and using health information. This is known as low health literacy and can affect anyone. Clear communication between patients and healthcare providers is critical, that is why the Ask Me3TM program is an integral component of Patient Safety Awareness Week. The program encourages patients to ask and understand the answers to three questions:

1. What is my main problem?
2. What do I need to do?
3. Why is it important for me to do this?

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.

Healthcare providers can help by encouraging patients to ask more questions. Patients should make a checklist as a reminder of what to ask at each visit. Remember, communication is essential for the effective delivery of healthcare. The lack of understanding can lead to medication errors and adverse medical outcomes. To learn more about increasing patient awareness, visit


Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Maggie


    Thank you for your article. It is very similar advice to a book I recently read, ‘Life in the Deadly World of Medicine’ written by Joseph T McFadden, which stresses the importance of advocating for oneself and loved ones while faced with any medical issue. That book was a real eye-opener.

    Maggie R

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