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'Understanding Your Caregivers' Promotes Health Literacy

Joint Commission Campaign Urges Patients to Take an Active Role in Their Health Care

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill., April 4, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Understanding the often complex medical information your doctor or other caregivers give to you can be difficult, and the consequences of misunderstanding this information can be life threatening.

The Joint Commission is launching a national campaign to help Americans prevent health care errors by promoting "health literacy" - the ability of patients to obtain, process and understand the basic information and services needed to make appropriate decisions regarding their health. The new education campaign is part of The Joint Commission's award-winning national Speak Up(TM) program that helps patients become more informed and involved in their health care.

For patients who may have difficulty comprehending the information needed to make important decisions about their care, navigating the health system can be daunting. Complex forms, conversations with doctors, medication instructions, and coping with a real or perceived lack of attention from hospital personnel all place high demands on patients. Factor in the growing number of people who must manage one or more chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease or diabetes, and the impacts of health literacy are profound.

"Proper communication is a cornerstone of safe, effective care," says Mark R. Chassin, M.D., M.P.P., M.P.H., president, The Joint Commission. "The Joint Commission strives to help give patients the tools they need to understand health care information and prevent misunderstandings that place them at risk."

"Understanding Your Caregivers" offers patients questions and answers that will help them to better understand the care they receive.

Among the topics are:

-- What can you do if you don't understand what your caregiver is saying?

-- What can you do if they explain and you still don't understand?

-- How do you understand all the instructions related to medicines, or even remember all of the medicines?

The basic foundation of Speak Up(TM) urges patients to:

Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don't understand, ask again. It's your body and you have a right to know.

Pay attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you're getting the right treatments and medications by the right health care professionals. Don't assume anything.

Educate yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing, and your treatment plan.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.

Know what medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common health care errors.

Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other type of health care organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation against established state-of-the-art quality and safety standards, such as that provided by The Joint Commission.

Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.

Speak Up(TM) brochures are available on understanding medical tests, recovering after leaving the hospital, preventing medication mistakes, preventing infections, preparing to become a living organ donor, avoiding wrong site surgery and preventing other errors in care. The brochures are available in an easy-to-read format and can be found at

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve the safety and quality of care provided to the public through the provision of health care accreditation and related services that support performance improvement in health care organizations. The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, including more than 8,000 hospitals and home care organizations, and more than 6,300 other health care organizations that provide long term care, assisted living, behavioral health care, laboratory and ambulatory care services. The Joint Commission also accredits health plans, integrated delivery networks, and other managed care entities. In addition, The Joint Commission provides certification of disease-specific care programs, primary stroke centers, and health care staffing services. An independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at

SOURCE Joint Commission on Accreditation of HealthcareOrganizations
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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