It's OK to Ask
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 health care 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 Ö before returning home.
- Improved Communication - It's OK to Ask encourages patients to ask questions, provide health care 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's Quality & Safety Steering Committee -- which recognizes the importance of providing information about these topics with patients.
Memorial 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.
How will the public learn about It's OK to Ask?
Memorial Health System wants the central Illinois community to know that patients are partners with their caregivers at our hospital, clinics and other patient care settings. Toward this end, our website, brochures, public events and various promotions are carrying our message that It's OK to Ask to the community.
- Website - Be sure to review all the pages in our website. In addition to this section of Frequently Asked Questions, our website also features a thorough program overview and important information about other ways in which Memorial Health System is working to improve patient safety, clinical effectiveness and quality of care.
- Brochure - It's OK to Ask is fully explained in a brochure that is included in patient Admission packets. Brochures are also available at public locations of the hospital - including Surgery Waiting, Emergency Department and lounges on the patient care floors.
- Displays - Patients and visitors will learn of the campaign through displays and other promotional items in the hospital and at community events.
- Media - Memorial's public relations staff will be working with local media, providing materials and information intended to support their development of news stories associated with this important new program.
Why is Memorial Health System doing this?
It's OK to Ask is a patient safety program. Stronger communication between caregiver and patient is certain to reduce the possibility of medical errors. Patients who take part in decisions about their health care are more likely to have better outcomes.
It's OK to Ask also reinforces the commitment the people of Memorial Health System bring to our mission of improving the health of the people and communities we serve. It's critical as a means of achieving our vision of being the preferred health care provider and employer in central Illinois.
Finally, It's OK to Ask also reinforces the values we live by as we care for our patients. We hold ourselves accountable to these values:
- Service to Humanity - To care for life's precious gift of health is a calling of the highest order. We recognize the vulnerability that accompanies fear and hope. We accept the responsibility, entrusted to us every day, to serve humanity.
- Excellence in Performance - By bringing together talented, dedicated people and advanced technology, we strive to provide quality health care. We take pride in ourselves, our colleagues and our workplace. We demonstrate that pride in the quality of service we deliver each day.
- Respect for the Individual - We treat all people with dignity, respect and compassion. We believe that every person is unique and has the right to participate in decisions that affect them.
- Value of Employees - More than buildings and equipment, people are Memorial Health System. Our success depends on an atmosphere of fairness and mutual respect. We are committed to provide equal opportunity for employment, growth and advancement. Furthermore, all employees are provided the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the fulfillment of our mission and are recognized for their accomplishments.
- Integrity in Relationships - We are committed to fairness and honesty in all of our relationships. We recognize that our ability to sustain relationships, based on mutual trust, is the foundation of our success.
- Community Responsibility - We hold our assets in public trust and recognize that continued financial viability is essential to fulfill our mission within the contest of this statement of values. We believe that our community service obligation can best be met as a not0-for-profit organization. Furthermore, we accept the responsibility to support research, education and public service programs that enrich the quality of life in our community.
- Equal Access - We believe all people deserve equal access to care and services. In our pursuit of this belief, we are constrained by our financial resources. We must balance our commitment to provide equal access to care and services with our obligation to ensure the continuing availability of quality health care for the future.
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.