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A new mobile app aims to help patients be more engaged in their own healthcare by helping patients prepare and organize questions and other helpful information prior to medical visits.

The Question Builder app was launched by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a federal agency dedicated to improving patient safety and quality in healthcare.

Based on content from an online tool that is part of AHRQ’s Questions Are the Answer public education campaign, the Question Builder app was developed with input from consumers and clinicians. Consumers liked the ability to have questions and other information at their fingertips during medical visits, while doctors, nurses and other clinicians said that better prepared patients would lead to more effective and efficient visits and potentially more accurate diagnoses and better outcomes.

“AHRQ’s new Question Builder app helps patients and providers get the most out of each and every patient visit by using information to achieve the best outcomes for patients,” said AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna, MBA. “As Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has made clear, we must create a healthcare system that pays for value. Nothing is more valuable than maximizing the time patients and providers spend together.”

Users are able to input details of their upcoming appointments, such as date and reason for the visit, and choose questions they want to ask their doctor, starting with a list to prompt them with questions that are common in different situations. Questions can be customized to fit individual needs. Users can email information to themselves or others for reference through the app and can use it to make notes during the medical visit. Other features include:

  • Content and questions organized by type of medical encounter, such as medical visit or preparing for surgery.

  • Consumer education materials and videos about the importance of asking questions and sharing information.

  • A camera option that allows users to document visual information such as a skin rash, upload insurance or prescription medication information, and other photo-enabled features.

Information entered into the Question Builder app resides on the user’s own device. The content is accessible via phone, tablet or laptop computer on both the iOS and Android operating systems.

“Patients can get better care by preparing to ask questions about their care and communicating effectively with their doctors, nurses and other providers,” said Jeff Brady, MD, who directs AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. “Asking questions to make sure patients understand instructions and other aspects of their care can help reduce the chance of missed diagnoses, identify the right tests that are needed, and avoid unnecessary hospital stays,” he explained.

With most U.S. medical visits averaging 20 minutes or less, the Question Builder app helps patients maximize the value of the time they have with their healthcare providers. The Question Builder app is being released in conjunction with Patient Safety Awareness Week, an annual health observance sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement intended to encourage everyone to learn more and remain vigilant about healthcare safety. The app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

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