Frequently Asked Questions
What is "It's OK to Ask?"
It's OK to Ask is a patient safety program that reinforces our recognition at Memorial Health System that the patient is the most important member of the caregiver team. It's OK to Ask evolves out of our commitment to patient care and recognition of the important role of patients as partners in the caregiving process. With the patient as a partner, the risk of accidental injury decreases while clinical effectiveness of the care being administered and patient safety both improve.
Why is this program needed?
Patients who recognize themselves as partners in their care will be comforted knowing their questions, comments and requests will be welcomed by the physicians, nurses and others who provide them with care. Patients who understand the responsibilities of being a partner with their caregivers will also be more fully prepared for an inpatient hospital stay or an outpatient hospital visit. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) reports that patients who take part in decisions about their healthcare are more likely to have better outcomes.
What information is being provided to patients through this program?
Through It's OK to Ask, we are sharing information about five specific patient care topics. These subjects are:
- Infection Control - There are steps patients can take to greatly minimize the presence of germs during a hospital stay.
- Reducing Medication Errors - Through It's OK to Ask, patients will learn how they can help prevent medication errors.
- Preventing Falls - "It's OK" for patients to let caregivers know they are uncomfortable or in pain. Asking for help is the most important thing a patient can do to prevent a fall during their hospital stay.
- Safe Healthcare at Home - Patients have special needs after returning home following a hospital stay. Through It's OK to Ask, we're emphasizing how important it is for them to recognize and understand these needs … before returning home.
- Improved Communication - It's OK to Ask encourages patients to ask questions, provide healthcare providers with information and take an active part in the decisions about their treatment and care.
How were these topics identified?
The Internet and news media were sources of direction. Both provide the general public with quick access to information (and sometimes misinformation) about patient safety and quality of care in our nation's hospitals. Infection control and medication errors are among the topics addressed most often on websites and in news reports.
Direction for this program evolved out of the work being done by Memorial Health System's Quality & Safety Leadership Team -- which recognizes the importance of providing information about these topics with patients.
MHS employees also played a key role. Approximately 100 employees representing clinical and non-clinical professions participated in focus groups in 2002. They identified things patient care issues and concerns they encounter at Memorial that could create an unsafe environment or safety risk for patients or employees.
Will physicians, nurses and other caregivers have time to answer more questions from patients?
It's OK to Ask does place additional responsibility with all our caregivers at Memorial Health System. However, the personal and professional commitment that all the people of Memorial Health System bring to the patients we serve is a commitment that combines exceptional skills, talents and experience with compassion.
Recognizing this, we will be prepared to answer patient questions and requests for aid. We will continue to do as we have always done. We will be receptive to patient questions. And we will respond to questions and requests for assistance with understanding and compassion.
It's my understanding that it's already difficult enough for nurses and other caregivers to keep up with patient needs. This program will place more demands of nurses and other patient care providers. Is it really needed?
It's OK to Ask is a patient safety and quality of care program. It's true. Nurses, along with all other employees, will encounter more questions and comments than they have in the past. And, it's true, that it will take additional time to respond.
These challenges, and potential frustrations, are outweighed by the program's purpose and benefits. By enlisting the patient as a partner on his or her caregiver team, the risk of accidental injury decreases and overall patient safety improves. Patients who see themselves as partners in their care will be comforted knowing their questions, comments and requests will be welcomed by all who provide care, or provide support for caregivers, at Memorial Health System.