Simple Tips to Increase the Effectiveness of Hospital Whiteboards

Feb 13, 2019

st joseph hospital whiteboard

When designing a custom whiteboard for a patient room, there is only so much whiteboard real estate that can be used. Although a board's surface area is limited, a lot of design mistakes can be made when placing graphics, information fields and areas of white space. These design issues may seem small, but they will inevitably decrease the effectiveness of the whiteboard when being used as a communication tool. After boards are placed in a patient's room, they also need to be properly used in order to maintain their effectiveness. 

While every hospital's needs are different, there are a few common issues that should be avoided when designing and using your whiteboards. 

#1: Overcrowding

It's easy to become a bit overzealous when designing a whiteboard. Most hospitals have a lot of information that they want to include on the board's design. While all of it may seem important during the initial design phases, many people find that the board becomes overcrowded quickly. Overcrowding decreases the effectiveness of a patient whiteboard for three reasons:  

  1. There is generally not enough white space to adequately write out and explain information to patients and their families. 

  1. Nurses and other care team members can become discouraged at the amount of information there is to fill out, which could cause them to leave fields blank or abandon filling out the board altogether. 

  1. Boards with too many information fields can appear unsightly to patients and may even cause them to become anxious.  

There are times when less information is better, and it's up to your organization to decide which information patients and providers find the most useful to them. 

#2: Improper Placement

There's a lot going on when it comes to wall space in patient rooms. Between windows, plugs, the TV and decorations, it's easy to struggle with finding an ideal place to hang a patient whiteboard. No matter how your patient rooms are designed, there are a few rules to follow when placing a board: 

  1. Make sure it will always be visible to the patient (best practices say that letters that are one-inch high are legible up to 10 feet away). 

  1. Try to place boards where family members can also see them when staying in a patient room. 

  1. Place boards in an area where it acts as a reminder for staff members to fill them out and update them. 

  1. Try to prevent boards from being seen by people passing by in the hallway.    

#3: Unclear Whiteboard Roles

There's one question that needs to be asked when whiteboards are placed within a facility: who will be in charge of filling out what information on a whiteboard? Since many physicians, nurses and other hospital staff frequently come and go from patient rooms it can become easy for everyone to forget or become confused about who is in charge of recording patient and provider information on the board. Once whiteboards are installed in a facility, it's a great idea to coordinate with team members on whose role it is to fill in what information on boards when patients are admitted. 

#4: Forgetting to Update the Information

Similarly, care should also coordinate who will update information and when updates will take place. Remember that an outdated whiteboard is no better than an empty whiteboard. 


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