AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Jeffrey Brady, M.D., M.P.As a physician, I know that when patients and caregivers ask questions, it helps them be more fully engaged as part of their own healthcare teams. Questions also help clinicians make sure their patients (and family members or caregivers joining them for the visit) fully understand their diagnoses and treatment plans.

Research confirms that patients are more likely to get accurate diagnoses and have better outcomes when they ask questions and communicate clearly with their doctors, nurses, and other providers.

That’s why asking questions and sharing information has long been a key component of AHRQ’s work in patient and family engagement and in AHRQ’s Questions Are the Answer public education campaign. Patients and clinicians alike have shared their stories about the importance of two-way communication.

Now, AHRQ is bringing Questions Are the Answer to a mobile device near you. The new Question Builder mobile app, available at no charge on iTunes and Google Play, helps patients prepare and organize questions and other helpful information ahead of time and puts that information at their fingertips, as part of an email or calendar appointment that allows for note taking  during medical visits.

Question Builder meets patients where they are. When we talk about the importance of engagement, it’s not helpful just to tell people, “You need to be more engaged.” The Question Builder app provides a template to help patients do exactly that.

Here’s how it works: Users input details of their upcoming appointments, such as date and reason for the visit. They are then prompted to choose questions that are common in different situations, and they can add customized questions as well. To address privacy concerns, information is not stored in the app; instead, users can email questions to themselves or others or save them to the notes section of their calendar appointments. This way, users can retrieve questions and make notes about the answers during their appointments.

The app also helps patients prepare answers to questions their clinician may ask. It asks questions such as “When did this problem start?” and “How long does the pain/symptom last?” This preparation can lead to a more timely, accurate diagnosis, because thinking about these questions ahead of time can make the limited time a patient has with a clinician so much more effective and efficient.

The Question Builder app—which is available on the iOS and Android operating systems and can be used on smartphones, laptops, and tablets—has a host of other features. For instance, it integrates with a phone’s camera so that users can snap a photo of useful visual information such as an insurance card, a pill bottle, or even a skin rash.

I’m excited about this new app because the most important thing that happens in most medical visits is the exchange of information between the patient and the clinician. Question Builder adds value to this exchange. It improves communication between patients and their doctors and nurses, achieving a fundamental goal in healthcare quality and patient safety: it makes the right thing to do the easy thing to do.

We introduced the Question Builder earlier this week in conjunction with Patient Safety Awareness Week, because engagement is a core element of safety. I encourage you to download it and try it out. If you’re a patient or caregiver, you’ll find it’s easy to use and intuitive. If you’re a clinician, consider how you might share it with your patients to help them be prepared to make the most of precious visit time. Either way, you’ll find that the Question Builder app will help prompt important conversations that will lead to better care.


Dr. Brady is Director of AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety.

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Page last reviewed March 2019
Page originally created March 2019
Internet Citation: AHRQ’s New Question Builder App Helps Engage Patients and Caregivers in Healthcare Teams. Content last reviewed March 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/new-questionbuilder-app.html
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