How Healthcare Whiteboards Help Solve the Patient Comfort Equation

Apr 24, 2020

patient room

Comfort is one of the foundational pillars of patient satisfaction, and patient room whiteboards have become a helpful tool for care teams to provide the increasingly high level of comfort sought by patients in an age where healthcare is more competitive than ever. When patients are kept comfortable, both physically and emotionally, they are far more likely to perceive their care as satisfactory, highly rate the hospital in which they are staying, and recommend the facility to their family and friends. These opinions are also integral parts of HCAPHPS surveys, one of the primary metrics by which a hospital’s performance is rated. 

Over the years, hospitals have made large strides to increase patient comfort in an effort to enhance patient-centered care frameworks — patient rooms now resemble modern hotel rooms, patients are not only treated as those seeking medical care, they are also treated as paying customers whose opinions matter, and hospitals are doing everything they can to differentiate themselves from the competition. Much of this traces back to how comfortable a facility and its caregivers can make patients during their stay. 

Defining a Moving Target 

What is comfort? Surely there is a universal definition that describes the feeling, but it by and large remains a subjective term. It’s more than a soft bed and a couple of pillows. One patient’s comfort is another’s annoyance, and researchers who have studied patient comfort have found it to be a multidimensional concept that lacks a static definitionHundreds of studies have been conducted over the years, and qualitative analysis of those studies has revealed several key components of patient comfort. These components are a mixture of physical feelings and emotions that vary based on the type of patient, but a comprehensive list includes: 

  • Low physical discomfort/pain 
  • Feeling confident in their care 
  • Having a sense of personal control 
  • Feeling cared for and valued 
  • Being put at ease 
  • Feeling safe and able to trust their caregivers  


In some other cases, terminal patients added that they wanted to feel calm and at peace, and children described that they wanted to not feel sad. In all, this represents a comprehensive definition of patient comfort hospitals can use as a rubric to approach patient-centered care. 

How Patient Room Whiteboards Help Confront the Issue of Comfort

One of the takeaways from the qualitative analysis of these studies is the amount of emphasis placed on emotional comfort, as opposed to physical comfort. While it’s important for patients to feel little pain, much of the discomfort that comes from hospital stays is rooted in emotional stress, uncertainty, and anxiety, all of which are treated not with medications, medical devices, and comfortable furniture, but rather by healthy and consistent communication delivered by caregivers. 

It’s easy to see now how patient room whiteboards can play such an integral role in making patients comfortable. When taking these components of comfort into consideration, healthcare whiteboards can help patients: 

  • Manage pain: studies have shown that whiteboards can improve communication of pain management schedules. 

  • Feel confident in their care: by increasing communication and making it visual, healthcare providers can use whiteboards to explain complex treatments, plans, and other concepts to patients, making them more confident in the care they are receiving and their knowledge and understanding of what is to come.  

  • Have a sense of personal control: patients often feel helpless when staying long-term in a hospital, especially when they are suffering from a condition they do not fully understand. Whiteboards make treatment an interactive experience for patients. Patients are better kept in the loop regarding their care, they can write down questions and concerns, and they are less likely to feel isolated. 

  • Feel cared for and valued: patients can never really know if caregivers are listening to their concerns. Whiteboards allow physicians and nurses to write these down as the patient explains them, letting patients know they are being heard and that their concerns are being addressed. 

  • Be put at ease: anxiety a large hurdle for patients and hospitals. Whiteboards help reduce patient anxiety before, during and after treatment. Read our white paper on patient anxiety to for a more comprehensive look at this topic. 

  • Trust their caregivers: when concrete communication takes place between patients and care teams, patients are more likely place trust in the people taking care of them. 


The effectiveness of whiteboards in healthcare settings is well documented. See more research Ghent Healthcare has compiled over the years.