If you’re involved in clinical management, the difficulties in coordinating patient communication will come as no surprise to you. In a busy hospital environment where doctors and nurses are rushed and running around, there’s little time to discuss important aspects of patient care.
According to a 2008 report from Australia’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, every year doctor-patient communication problems contribute to more than half a million dollars in preventable patient complications in emergency rooms alone. To reduce such problems, it’s crucial that contact between patients and caregivers is improved where possible.
One of the main tools many hospitals use to improve this process is the whiteboard. Whiteboards at a patient’s bedside can be a great platform to relay all sorts of information from patient to caregiver and vice versa. From logging details of the patient’s condition to providing motivation in the form of visible daily goals and discharge dates, there’s little that nurses on the ward can’t convey with a bedside board.
However, while whiteboards can facilitate better communication, they’ll only do so if they’re used correctly. Inefficient whiteboard use only serves to make communication more time-consuming and less useful. If your care team are still struggling to communicate effectively with patients despite using whiteboards, here are two tips to improve their functionality.
Use a Template
Printed Whiteboards can allow for the Doctor’s or assigned name, Daily testing noted or important messages like “Fluids Only” to be very visual for patientcare. Whiteboards work best when they’re able to display all the key information a patient, their caregivers and their family need to know. Of course, it can be difficult for nurses to remember everything that needs to go on a patient’s board, especially when they’re in the middle of a busy shift. Even once nurses have committed these key points to memory, writing them all out in order can take up a lot of time or lead to rushed, messy handwriting that fails to communicate anything at all.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to overcome this nuisance: templates. Instead of using blank whiteboards, consider using whiteboards that have been printed with a fill-in-the-blanks template.
Templates can include any fields that are relevant to your department, from the names of assigned doctors and nurses to pain scales that are easy to mark and monitor. Many whiteboards feature patient-specific details that medical professionals can view at a glance, such as ‘fluids only’ or which daily tests have already been conducted.
Printed whiteboards will save time and reduce the need to rush when writing, improving ward efficiency as well as patient communication.
Get Magnetic Strips
Templated whiteboards aren’t the only way to avoid illegible communications between caregivers and patients. Another great tool for any hospital’s communication arsenal is the magnetic strip. Magnetic sheets can be cut to size or use the pre-cut strips that are available in seven colours. Magentic Symbols, Letters & Numbers or the planner packs can make it easier to read/communicate when creating your own boards.
You can get printed whiteboards made from magnetic ceramic steel. This means that, alongside using pens to add information to the board, your team can make use of convenient magnetic sheets that can be cut to size and filled out with relevant details. You can also choose standard-sized pre-cut strips available in multiple colours. Some strips come pre-printed with letters, numbers or symbols as well.
The names of doctors and nurses, for example, can be written on magnetic sheets in permanent marker. Then, instead of spending time writing out the name of each caregiver on a patient’s board, your nurses can simply stick the corresponding strip over the name field. Magnetic strips in traffic-light colours could also be used to log pain and wellbeing levels with ease.
Magnetic strips are one of the best ways to increase legibility, and they save time that’s usually spent writing, erasing and rewriting. Magnetic strips also combat another problem many hospitals face—lack of pens. A report by the University of California, San Francisco found that pens being unavailable when needed presented one of the biggest barriers to communication.
Board pens run out and go missing often, and any time spent looking for a pen is time that could be spent on more important tasks. Using pre-written magnetic strips reduces the need for pens, ensuring nurses can get crucial information on the board at any time.
Improving patient correspondence in your hospital will save you valuable time and money, reduce the risk of serious incidents and make patients want to return to your facility for future medical care.
If you want to use these tips to boost your communication, take a look at Vista’s printed whiteboards, portable lapboards and magnetic strips, or contact Vista Visuals Australia directly for more information. Recently, we created patient boards for Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, so we have experience creating medically specialised whiteboards.