How asking patients a simple question enhances care at the bedside: medical students as agents of quality improvement.

Hope Olivia Ward*, Sarah Kibble, Gney Mehta, Marc Franklin, Joshua Kovoor, Aled Jones, Sukhmeet Panesar, Andrew Carson-Stevens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Medical students have traditionally played a passive role in the delivery of health care. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School members and leaders initiated the Ask One Question project in December 2011. Through a commitment to the project, students are learning to assume a unique position in health care settings, as both learners and caregivers. They are improving care at the bedside by asking a simple question: "How can I improve your stay today?" Using the Model for Improvement to adapt the Ask One Question concept for local use, medical students at Cardiff University (United Kingdom) asked 120 patients. A content analysis of those responses identified 89 issues across 4 broad areas for improvement, including communication issues (uncertainty about their care management and desire for more time with their health care professional); practical issues (assistance with tasks made difficult because of ill health); wider organizational and National Health Services requests; and medical needs (requiring medical or nursing intervention). A medical student, a clinical colleague, or the hospital organization could act on those issues. Actions ranged from attending to simple tasks (eg, finding spectacles) or basic care needs (eg, giving a drink) to suggestions requiring wider institutional change. On a simple but effective level, Ask One Question reflects good manners and is a demonstrable competency of patient-centered practice. It is a vehicle for enabling students to seek improvements in health care and initiate relevant actions to improve the patient experience at the bedside.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-31
Number of pages5
JournalThe Permanente journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


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