Do posters in the hospital really help patients?

The Disease Management Care Blog received this posting from an experienced nurse with a background in clinical and administrative medicine.

We’ve all seen them. Those vacuous workplace posters exhorting teamwork, creativity and other forms of inspiration and accomplishment. A version has begun to creep into our nation’s health care facilities. reminding everyone of the need for privacy, how infections can be spread and the importance of patient service. And if my experience is any indication, they can also amply demonstrate to patients just how badly broken the health care system can be.

During a recent visit to a local medical center, I noticed the elevator posters of the really cute child saying “shhh” with a finger over her mouth along with a tag line about patient privacy. As I was waiting for my elevator, I could hear a overhear a resident dictating a surgical summary about a named patient’s a bowel resection, low blood pressure, blood loss and signs of malignancy. Good thing the patient is not my neighbor.

And how about the signs telling patients to remind providers to wash their hands before touching them to help stop the spread of infection? During another visit, my mother’s physician seemed was surprised when I pointed out the poster and asked him to wash his.

My primary care physician has a poster that tells me to ask my doctor 3 things before I leave: what is my major problem; what do I need to do to manage it; and how are they going to help me manage it. After my physician’s office staff grudgingly gave me a “sick appointment” for my pleurisy, I had x-rays and a cursory examination. I asked the doctor the 3 questions the poster told me to. He told me we would discuss that the next time I see him. While I wait for the x-rays results, there is no follow-up scheduled at this time and no treatment has been prescribed.

While these and other posters are intended to educate consumers and remind providers, I’m running into doctors who are ignoring them. Paradoxically, these posters are reminding patients of lax privacy, the risk of avoidable infections and lousy customer service.

Here’s a suggestion for you well meaning hospital administrators: until you really fix these problems, don’t inflame things with posters. Put up pictures of what you’re apparently really all about: cash.

Jaan Sidorov is an internal medicine physician who blogs at the Disease Management Care Blog.

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