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Monday, November 29, 2021  

ASK ME THREEPublished 4/18/2005

As nurses we make daily contributions to patients’ health care. How, we may ask, are those contributions impacted by the patient’s individual health literacy? We recognize that health literacy, at least a basic understanding of one’s own health status, is essential to wellness. We certainly understand that teaching is a crucial component of good care and that knowledge promotes compliance and improves positive health behaviors. With regards to patient teaching, how can one be certain that patients understand concepts basic to their health or illness? And, must we not also be certain that patients understand the need for shared responsibility related to the outcome of illness or the continuation of good health?

As the nurse’s primary intervention, assessment of each patient’s health literacy must answer three questions:

• What does the patient know right now?

• What must he know to be a vested partner in his own care?

• What motivates an individual not only to compliance but to active participation?

"The main currency of healthcare is communication," affirmed Dr Carolyn Clancy M.D. during a presentation addressing the issue of health literacy and the steps that must be taken to address this challenge. Even though complex issues can rarely be simplified, a program currently gaining respect may render patient education, at the very least, less problematic. The American Medical Association is asking all health care professionals to implement the "Ask Me 3" program which was initiated by the Partnership for Clear Health Communication, a coalition of national organizations that include the AMA and the APHA. Ask Me 3 instructs patients on how to better understand their health and illness, urging them to ask their physicians, nurses and pharmacist three primary questions:

• "What is my main problem?"

• "What do I need to do?"

• "Why is it important for me to do this?"

The focus of this campaign is to encourage the discussion of those three simple but critical questions. A primary goal of the campaign is to reassure patients not to be embarrassed or hesitant if they have difficulty understanding the complexity of their illness or the prescribed plan of care. The program invites patients to become full partners in their care and reminds them that in tandem with the right to better health outcomes comes the tacit responsibility to be active participants. Such an approach creates a safe environment in which patients may talk openly with health care personnel. Open communication allows the health care provider a better view of any barriers to understanding that may exist and clues to behaviors that may dissolve those barriers. For more information see:

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