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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Patient-Provider Communication Toolkit

AskMe3 - Good Questions for Your Good Health

What is Ask Me 3?

Clear communication is the foundation for patients to be able to understand and act on health information. The IHS is promoting Ask Me 3 developed by the Partnership for Clear Health Communication.

Ask Me 3 is a quick, effective tool designed to improve health communication between patients and providers. Through patient and provider education materials developed by leading health literacy experts Ask Me 3 promotes three simple but essential questions that patients should ask their providers in every health care interaction. Providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

What Can Providers do? Health literacy is essential for good patient care and positive health outcomes.

  1. Give patients the answers to their 3 questions
    Along with encouraging your patients to use the Ask Me 3 approach, simple techniques can increase your patients' comfort level with asking questions, as well as participating in their treatment plan after they leave appointments.
    • Create a safe environment where patients feel comfortable talking openly with you
    • Use plain language instead of technical language or medical jargon
    • Sit down (instead of standing) to achieve eye level with your patient
    • Use visual models to illustrate a procedure or condition
    • Ask patients to "teach back" the care instructions you give to them
    See below to learn more on how to talk to Patients.

  2. Provide patients with information about the Ask Me 3 program

  3. Learn more about low health literacy. Broadening your knowledge of health literacy issues and associated concerns will help to improve your patient's health. See health literacy.

Patient Wellness Handout

The Patient Wellness Handout (PWH) is a special health summary report created by the Resource Patient Management System (RPMS) for the patient. The handout includes information such as vital signs, lab results, and medications from the patient's medical record with an easy to read explanation of what the information means. Click here to see an example of the PWH.

The PWH can be generated for patients by any health care provider or support staff. To print a PWH, you will need to talk to your RPMS site manager to have this application added for you.

The PWH should be reviewed with patients to increase healthcare communications. The tool can also be used for medication reconciliation and health promotion and disease prevention activities.

How to Talk to Patients

When talking to patients about their health care issues, remember that patients may be anxious, worried, distressed, and/or confused. Following are a few tips:
  • Avoid using technical words or jargon. It may be tough to avoid "physician-speak," but experts say you should assume that all your patients will be confused by most of what you say. If you must use a technical word, define it.
  • Avoid unnecessary details. Limit the information you cover in order to reduce confusion or information overload. Use simple vocabulary and short sentences. Make no more than two or three key points for each topic.
  • Avoid acronyms. When you must use an acronym, explain the meaning the first time you use it.
  • Use the "teach-back" method. Avoid asking patients, "Do you understand?" Most will say they do even when they are confused. Instead say‚Ķ "I want to make sure I did a good job teaching you. Tell me how you are going to do this when you get home." Research consistently shows that this type of "teach-back" method improves recall and participation in the treatment plan.
  • Use pictures. Illustrations often convey instructions better than words. Talk to family members. If you think your patient may have low health literacy, enlist the aid of a family member or friend.

Help patients set goals

The IHS has a mechanism for documenting goal setting [PDF-1MB] with the patient. Goal setting should be patient-directed, specific, and set around a specific measureable timeframe.
  • Ultra-Brief Personal Action Plan (UB-PAP) is a tool that allows clinicians to support patient self-management. This patient-centered technique encourages the patient to develop his or her behavior specific action plan.
  • Motivational Interviewing is a tool that helps patients identify and change behaviors.

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