Speak UP poster
UC Davis Medical Center's welcome brochure for new patients encourages them to ask questions and be active participants in health-care decisions. Click here (PDF) to view a larger version of this image.

The center of the health-care team is not the primary care physician, a primary nurse or a renowned medical specialist – it is the patient.

So says the “Speak Up” campaign at UC Davis Medical Center, part of a national initiative to maintain and increase the safety of patients by encouraging them to become actively engaged in their care.

Providing the highest level of safe, quality patient care is a fundamental commitment at UC Davis Medical Center. The hospital voluntarily participates in a number of public reporting initiatives, convenes quality and safety committees, fosters a culture of safety, conducts annual trainings and vaccinates staff against infectious diseases such as influenza, among other actions.

Encouraging patients to voice their questions may be a simple concept, but is powerful enough a safety measure to be the centerpiece of an award-winning patient safety program by The Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant health standards-setting body. The independent nonprofit organization accredits hospitals for safety and quality through a process that includes detailed reports and on-site reviews.

“UC Davis Medical Center is committed to team care that is patient-focused,” said Allan Siefkin, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “Optimal, high-quality and safe care requires that the patient and their family be actively involved."

The Joint Commission launched the Speak Up campaign in 2002 in partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. UC Davis is an active participant and encourages patients to speak up from the beginning of their treatment.

Dr. Allan Siefkin"Optimal, high-quality and safe care requires that the patient and their family be actively involved."

— Allan Siefkin, chief medical officer

The first page of the medical center’s welcome brochure for new patients contains a colorful notice urging them to ask questions, educate themselves about their conditions, and enlist family members or friends to help.

The hospital posts similar Speak Up materials and encourages nurses and other patient care staff to remind patients to ask questions.

The Speak Up campaign encourages patients to:

  • Speak up if you have questions or concerns. If you still don't understand, ask again. It's your body and you have a right to know.
  • Pay attention to the care you get. Always make sure you're getting the right treatments and medicines by the right health-care professionals. Don't assume anything.
  • Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you get and your treatment plan.
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate (adviser or supporter).
  • Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medicine errors are the most common health-care mistakes.
  • Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center or other type of health-care organization that has been carefully checked out. For example, The Joint Commission visits hospitals to see if they are meeting the commission's quality standards.
  • Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health-care team.

UC Davis also launched a “speak up” program for medical personnel in 2007 to support and improve communication in operating rooms. Based on training used in the aviation industry, it encourages all members of surgical teams to intervene to prevent medical errors, regardless of their positions.