Q&A: The “Ask Me 3” technique for patient communication

December 5, 2018
Medicare Web

Q: As a case manager, I know about motivational interviewing, especially for patients with mental health or substance abuse disorder, but a colleague recently mentioned the “ask me 3” technique to me. Is it similar to motivational interviewing?

A: Ask Me 3 is a program previously run by the National Patient Safety Patient Foundation (NPSF). As of May 1, 2017, NPSF merged with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement. Ask Me 3 is a simple conversation that encourages patients and families to ask three specific questions of their providers and clinicians regarding what they need to do to stay healthy. The responses to these questions provide great insights into the patient’s motivations, needs, and approach to care.

This conversation will also help case managers and social workers understand health literacy and can serve as a platform to improve communications. The questions are simple, but they offer a great springboard for follow-up by the case manager and social worker.

Consider these questions in the context of a patient/family conference, diagnostic meeting with providers, or initial assessment at the site of care (e.g., inpatient, emergency department, ambulatory).

The Ask Me 3 technique can determine the patient’s health literacy and help identify members of high-risk and rising-risk populations.

Patient questions with providers:           

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Case management/social work

  • How does this impact the patient?
  • Does the patient have the tools to be successful?
  • Does the patient understand the consequences?


Editor's note: Adapted from www.npsf.org/page/askme3. For more information, see Care Transitions in Case Management. Need expert advice? Email your questions for consideration in the Revenue Cycle Daily Advisor. Note: We do not guarantee that all questions will be answered.