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Healthc Q. 2008;11(3 Spec No.):91-4.

"It's safe to ask": promoting patient safety through health literacy.

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Patient Experience and Quality Department, St. Boniface General Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba.


The Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety launched "It's Safe to Ask" in January 2007. The communication and health literacy initiative is aimed at Manitoba's vulnerable populations and their primary care providers. Phase 1 includes a poster and brochure for patients and a toolkit for providers/organizations, pilot tested in six sites in Manitoba. Posters will serve as a symbol that dialogue is encouraged. Tools, available in 15 languages, provide patients and family members with three key questions to ask in healthcare interactions, tips on how to ask questions, and room for notes and listing of medications. The initiative will promote involvement in healthcare by patients, stronger communication between patient and provider, and reduction of risk for adverse events. "It's Safe to Ask" has been implemented in over 65 sites across Manitoba. A formal evaluation is underway. Phase 2 and 3 will enhance key tools and include interventions with specific populations.

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