A whiteboard is a wonderful visual control, one that we lean advocates just love. It is inexpensive, easy to maintain and often the best way for interested parties to track the status of production.
I recently read about an intriguing use of a whiteboard in hospitals: as a way for the patient to track the status of their medical care.
Hospital patients often deal with several different doctors and nurses. Sometimes care is not as coordinated as it should be. Sometimes different professionals offer different advice. And sometimes patients just have trouble remembering what each person said – or even who they are.
One current trend is that increasing numbers of hospitals employ hospitalists: hospital-based general physicians who assume the care of patients in place of the patient’s primary care physician. Their activities include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
A recent article from Hospitals & Health Networks magazine discusses the issues facing hospitalists, and how many hospitals are evaluating their performance based partly on patient satisfaction.
And that is where whiteboards can play a role.
Physicians and nurses write their names on the boards to help patients remember who their clinicians are. Doctors post test results or exams scheduled for that day, and families post questions if they miss the doctors’ rounds.
The Medical College of Wisconsin actually linked an improvement in its Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores to the use of whiteboards, says Michael Radzienda, M.D., chief of the section of hospital medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Hospitalists in Radzienda’s organization also carry a magnetized photograph of themselves and a magnetic business card. “You go into the patient room, hand them your business card and put your photo magnet on the whiteboard,” he explains. “A frequent complaint is, ‘I don’t know who’s running the show.’ This allows the hospitalist to be better identified as the care manager. This is your doctor.”
I’ll bet this kind of use of whiteboards helps some doctors, as well as patients, track what is happening.
Sometimes the simplest, low-tech solutions are the best.