Getting the health information you need

    It's okay to ask

    CALGARY, Jan. 20 /CNW/ - Albertans now have a new tool to help them get
the most from their health care experience thanks to a report released today
by the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA). The HQCA's fourth biennial
Health Report to Albertans, called It's Okay to Ask, encourages patients to
partner with their health care providers to speak up and take action to get
the health information they need. This publication follows our 2007 report
entitled Playing It Safe, which focused on Albertans taking a more active role
in their medication safety.
    It's Okay to Ask is an important step towards a healthier tomorrow
because low health literacy is a problem in 55% of the Canadian population
between the ages of 16 and 65 and is higher in those over 65.(1) That means
most Canadians do not understand how to read nutrition labels, follow
medication directions, understand safety instructions or make informed choices
for their well-being. It's Okay to Ask advises patients to be open and honest
and ask for clarification when they don't understand something completely. It
gives patients helpful tools to track their symptoms and medications and also
provides helpful questions to ask about their health concerns, treatment
choices and lifestyle changes.
    "When the responsibility for health care decisions is shared, the outcome
is better for everyone involved but especially the patient," says Dr. John
Cowell, Chief Executive Officer of the HQCA. "You, the patient, are one of the
most important members of your health care team and that's why it's okay to
ask all the questions you need to make an informed decision."
    An important part of taking action is to speak up. It's Okay to Ask helps
patients plan before they visit their health care practitioner by providing
tips on what to discuss during the visit to increase understanding of their
health concern. The publication also includes suggestions on what patients can
do to follow up after the visit to better manage their health. Guidelines such
as filling out a simple symptom tracker and a list of the top five questions
to ask a health care practitioner will help Albertans become better advocates
for their health or the health of their loved ones.
    A planned and well thought out trip to the doctor or another health care
provider is time well spent. Taking the time to read through It's Okay to Ask
and following some simple guidelines will help patients get the care they need
sooner and will open the door to clear and open dialogue with their
practitioner for their immediate and future health care needs.
    According to a patient safety survey the HQCA released in 2005, mistakes
with medications were the second most common error reported by patients. That
is why It's Okay to Ask talks about how to get the most out of medication, how
to talk to a pharmacist and where to go for help when a pharmacist isn't
available. There is a checklist to ensure patients get the full benefit from
prescribed medications and tips on how to include the pharmacist in the
patient's health care team.
    The HQCA will distribute copies of It's Okay to Ask provincewide through
various channels including newspaper inserts. Health care providers including
all regulated health professions have received notice of the publication and
where they may obtain copies. There will also be a print campaign in daily and
weekly newspapers and selected magazines to increase awareness among
Albertans. Copies of It's Okay to Ask are also available at or by
calling the HQCA office at 403-297-8162.

    About the HQCA

    As an independent organization legislated under the Regional Health
Authorities Act, the Health Quality Council of Alberta gathers and analyzes
information and collaborates with Alberta Health Services, the health
professions and Alberta Health and Wellness to translate that knowledge into
practical improvements to the quality and safety of the health care Albertans

    (1) Canadian Council on Learning. "State of Learning in Canada: No Time
for Complacency," Report on Learning in Canada 2007 (Ottawa: 2007), pages

For further information:

For further information: Pam Brandt, Communications Lead, (403)
297-4091, (403) 850-5067 cell

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Health Quality Council of Alberta

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