The Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) joined with The Advertising Council today to launch a national public service advertising campaign designed to encourage adults to take a more proactive role in their health care. The campaign is being launched during national Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 4-10, 2007).

Medical mistakes occurring in hospitals account for an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 deaths each year or a minimum of 120 deaths per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. That means that these mistakes lead to more deaths per year than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. Research shows that consumers who get more involved with their health care can greatly improve the safety of their care, but patients are generally unaware of what to do to help prevent medical mistakes. According to a recent study conducted by AHRQ and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 57 percent of Americans do not believe that preventable medical errors occur often.

The new "Questions Are the Answer: Get More Involved With Your Health Care" PSA campaign, which was created pro bono by ad agency McCann Erickson Detroit, aims to encourage all patients and caregivers to become more active in their health care by asking questions. The campaign includes new television, radio, print and Web advertising that directs audiences to call a toll-free number, (1-800-931-AHRQ), and visit a comprehensive Web site, to obtain tips on how to help prevent medical mistakes and become a partner in their health care. The site also features an interactive "Question Builder" that allows consumers to generate a customized list of questions for their health care providers that they can bring to each medical appointment.

"The goal of this new campaign is to get patients more involved and to ultimately improve the safety of health care for all Americans," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. "We want people to feel comfortable having a dialogue with their health care clinicians."

AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., agrees. "This campaign is a natural outgrowth of AHRQ's ongoing efforts to improve the safety and quality of health care. We hope that these new public service advertisements will show millions of Americans that they shouldn't be afraid to ask questions related to their health care and that their clinicians are interested in answering them."

This campaign is just one important piece of the many efforts that are taking place to improve the safe delivery of health care and reduce medical mistakes. For example, AHRQ worked with the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association to launch a campaign called 5 Steps to Safer Health Care and has published a wide variety of materials in English and Spanish to help consumers receive safe, high-quality health care. AHRQ also funds a variety of projects to improve the safety of health care through health information technology, teamwork among health care providers, and more.

"Research continues to reveal the large number of mistakes that can be prevented if individuals take a more active role in their health care, yet we have found that this is not an issue that is top-of-mind for Americans," according to Peggy Conlon, President & CEO of the Ad Council. "We are proud to partner with AHRQ to shed light on this critical issue and provide consumers with very simple steps that they can take to improve their health care. The ads are entertaining and memorable, while motivating, and I believe they will have a great impact on the health of our country."

The Web site,, features tips for patients to become more involved in their health care, including: bring a list of questions to each medical appointment; take notes in the examination room; make sure you receive the results of medical tests; and, upon leaving the hospital, make sure you understand instructions regarding followup care and medications.

The PSAs are being distributed to 28,000 media stations nationwide this week. Another campaign created specifically for the Hispanic community will launch in late 2007. Per the Ad Council's donated media model, all of the new PSAs will air and run in advertising time and space donated by the media.


The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality ( is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AHRQ's mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. AHRQ's research helps people make more informed decisions and improve the quality of health care services and reduce medical mistakes.

Ad Council

The Ad Council ( is a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to produce, distribute and promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1865 or (301) 427-1964.

Internet Citation:

AHRQ and Ad Council Encourage Patients To Ask Questions and Get More Involved with Their Health Care. Press Release, March 7, 2007. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Source: AHRQ Media Release

Topics #ad council #AHRQ #medical errors #patient advocacy