Using a white board as a patient tool

There is a white board in every patient’s room. This is used to keep patient oriented and provide them with basic information. You would see some data on it, most of the time there is a date scrolled on it, name of the nurse and maybe physician’s name.

I recently read an article “Getting the most out the humble white board” by Deborrah Gesenway. This is an excellent read and I would strongly recommend that you should try reading it.

Dr. Niraj Sehgal, a hospitalist at the University of California, conducted a survey regarding the use of white board. He inferred at the end of survey that a “white board should be a patient centered tool.” This can be used to convey to the patient what the goals are for the day and what kind of test or procedures they should be expecting.

So after reading the article I decided to give it a try. I borrowed a color marker from our unit secretary and started my new quest. When I am finished talking to the patient I take out my marker and write down the plans in a bullet format. For example:

  • My name
  • CT abdomen today
  • GI consult requested
  • Transfuse 2 units of blood

This  takes a few seconds but provides point of reference for the patient and they feel much better when they know what their goals are for that day.

I have been doing this recently, and since then, I feel my patients are better informed and more appreciative.

S. Irfan Ali is a hospitalist who blogs at Human Factor in Medicine and Life.

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  • Susan

    Given HIPPA concerns, this is not a good idea.

    • stargirl65

      It is HIPAA.

      What if the patient says it is OK? I think it is very helpful.

      • GingerB

        Seems like it would be helpful. If someone shows up to do something that’s not on the list you’d have a glimmering that maybe it should be double-checked.

        Usually I’ve just seen the nurse/aide put their names on the board, which is nice if you’re visiting and need to summon help.

  • IVF-MD

    Very clever idea. I’m going to explore implementing this tactic with my patients. But I’ll probably use a large pad and paper. On another note, even when I lecture my medical students, sometimes I get more wandering attention and dozing off when I use my fancy animated slides as opposed to when I just use a simple white board and Dry-Erase markers. It might be that over time, after sitting through hundreds of slide-based lectures, students get Powerpoint blindness.

  • S. Irfan Ali, M.D

    I will look into HIPPA compliance and post my findings later. I think it should be OK as this is inside the patient room not in a public place outside.

  • The Scrivener

    I like the idea of keeping the patient in the loop. One thing I saw one of my residents do was copy the plan for the day onto a half-sheet of paper and give to the patient after they were seen by the attending (to make sure that the plan was what the attending wanted). It also helped the patient understand that even though their doctor might not come back for the rest of the day, they were hard at work calling consults, etc.

    IVF-MD: As a med student myself, I can attest to Powerpoint blindness. Most lecturers seem to use Powerpoint as a crutch (e.g. read off the slide). The best lecturer of my preclinical years had a single notecard which he referred to for statistics. You had to pay attention because there was no backup; he was also a very engaging speaker, which might also be why he didn’t feel the need to rely on a slideshow. Powerpoint’s great for images/radiographs/Kaplan-Meier curves, but that’s about it.

  • Mike

    Human Beings communicate much better graphically. Engineers have been doing this for centuries.

  • IVF-MD

    Human beings also communicate better when it’s actual bi-directional communication. I lecture to 300 students (usually 40 at a time during their OB rotation) per year at two medical schools and when I do so, no two talks are the same, even for talks on the same topic. This is because I call on students to engage in questions and answer. In fact, I learn all the time also. A minority of students seem to hate it because my questions actually encourage them to pay attention and engage rather than allowing them to doodle or sleep, but from the detailed feedback I get, many students positively say that they’ve never had a lecture like that in all of med school. My point is that it would be nice if we reconsidered the way we teach our patients and our students and not do it in a “traditional” way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Instead, we should always be trying new things and if they work, then build on it. If they don’t work, then stick to the traditional way for the time being while exploring ever new options.

    This would be great if it were applied to grade school. You might actually get a majority of students to love learning and to disagree with the assertion that “school sucks”. This could save our country :)

    • Mike

      Absolutely, in essence shift part of the responsibility for the class to the students. Some of my best professors used this technique and it is effective. Unfortunately, not all are able to pull it off, personally plays a huge role in making a good teacher.

  • Heart Patient

    As both a patient, and family member of patients (my entire family, all 7 siblings, have cardiovascular disease and have had multiple surgeries/interventions), I can tell you that the white board in invaluable for family members. The patient isn’t always medically “savvy”, and it helps us to keep up with what is going on, because you can’t always locate the medical provider for questions. It’s great as a patient to know the plan for the day, caregivers names, etc. (Of course I know my doctors, but not necessarily the nurses, etc.)

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