Career

Use Whiteboards to Enhance Patient-Provider Communication


 

Editor’s note: “Everything We Say and Do” is an informational series developed by SHM’s Patient Experience Committee to provide readers with thoughtful and actionable communication tactics that have great potential to positively impact patients’ experience of care. Each article will focus on how the contributor applies one or more of the “key communication” tactics in practice to maintain provider accountability for “everything we say and do that affects our patients’ thoughts, feelings, and well-being.”

View a chart outlining key communication tactics

What I Say and Do

Patrick Kneeland, MD
Patrick Kneeland, MD

With my team, I use whiteboards as a tool to enhance communication: 1) I introduce myself and my team members, then write our names on the whiteboard paired with an explanation of my role as the attending physician for the hospital medicine service; 2) on a daily basis, I ask the patient and family/support what their primary concerns and goals are and write those on the whiteboard; and 3) I invite the patient and family/support to use the whiteboard to write additional concerns or questions as they arise.

Why I Do It

Hospitals are confusing places. One of our key roles as hospitalists is to coordinate and clarify all of the moving pieces and to communicate clearly to patients and their family that there is someone doing that work on their behalf. The whiteboard can help to accomplish that and to visually indicate “reflective listening.” If I ask patients what their concerns and goals are on a daily basis, I can better address them, and writing those on the whiteboard is a way to visually let patients know I have heard them—and heard them accurately. Finally, as we know from experience at our institution, when patients are invited to write on the whiteboard, they are likely to do so and will often write important information that hasn’t come up during routine rounding.

How I Do It

The key to effectiveness is to build whiteboard use into the clinical workflow and patient conversation rather than create an extra task to complete. I have developed a routine using the whiteboard that is more or less the same for every patient.

Also, whiteboard design can influence the use of the whiteboard as a communication tool. I favor designs that have few prescriptive boxes and more space for writing. I have found whiteboards labeled with a “What are your goals?” section to be helpful.


Patrick Kneeland, MD, is medical director for patient and provider experience and director of the Excellence in Communication Curriculum, University of Colorado Hospital and Clinics.

Next Article: