This story originally appeared in IHI's 2008 Annual Progress Report.
Ubiquitous in office settings and in a lot of homes as well, white boards are a simple, flexible, and low-cost way of conveying and tracking information. And in the world of health care, where increasingly sophisticated technology plays a big role, they have surprising power.
“White boards are a critical tool for sharing information with patients,” says Denise Mazzapica, BSN, manager of the hospital’s TCAB unit. TCAB is short for Transforming Care at the Bedside
, a joint initiative of IHI and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Hanging in each patient room, the boards were initially used for mostly one-way communications: nurses would list that day’s caregivers and a patient goal for the day. “Then we noticed that families began to use the boards to communicate with us, or with their loved one,” says Mazzapica. “They might write, ‘Dad ate all his breakfast today’ or ‘Remember to call the nurse if you get up.’ Sometimes children will draw pictures on them.”
Before long, Mazzapica says, the boards were serving even more functions. “We ask the patient, ‘What is the most important thing we can do for you today?’ and put the answer on the board.” Nurses also write scheduled tests and specialty visits on the boards, or when a patient can expect their next dose of pain medication. In all their messages, nurses are careful to guard patient privacy.
Surveys indicate that patients are increasingly happy with how well informed they are and how clear the plan of care is, which Mazzapica thinks is largely due to use of the white boards. That’s why the hospital is now investing in an important technological advancement: larger white boards.