Healthcare Whiteboards are an Effective Way to Communicate with People with Disabilities

Jul 27, 2020

pikeville medical center whiteboard

Communication is vital for all patients, regardless of their cognitive and physical abilities. Effectively communicating with patients is challenging enough, most care providers know this, but adding in another variable in the form of a disability makes this important part of patient care a slightly larger hill to climb. Thankfully, healthcare whiteboards have been shown to increase positive communication between patients and providers, and their customizability makes them the perfect tool to use when communicating with patients, regardless of their unique challenges.

If you work with patients with varying disabilities and conditions, you can use whiteboards to provide better service and more streamlines communication daily.


Using Whiteboards to Communicate with Patients with Hearing Loss

Visual aids like customizable whiteboards are the perfect companion to communicating with people who have significant hearing loss. When used in tandem with an interpreter, patient communication boards can help deaf and hearing-impaired patients better understand their treatment plan, schedule, condition, and so much more. This is especially important in a time where facemasks are being worn by all medical providers, which poses new challenges for patients who rely on reading lips to understand what is being communicated to them.

When speaking with a patient who uses an interpreter for the deaf, it’s often common to pause frequently to allow the interpreter to relay what is being said to a patient. This is an ideal time for nurses and physicians to write the information that is being presented on the whiteboard so that the patient can read and refer to it later.


Using Whiteboards to Communicate with Patients with Speech Difficulties

For patients who can understand what is being said to them, but cannot audibly communicate, whiteboards are the ideal solution. Ample space is often left on whiteboard designs where patients can leave comments, concerns, and questions they would like healthcare providers to address during their stay in a facility. Since it’s often difficult for these patients to communicate these concerns, many of them are not brought up, which is why using a patient room board as a communication board can be so valuable.

  • When speaking with patients who have speech challenges, remember to:
  • Ask short questions that require brief answers, meaning they will have to write less on the board.
  • Ask patients to answer a question in a different way if you do not understand.
  • Be patient, give them your undivided attention, and eliminate background noise and as many distractions as possible.


Using Whiteboards to Communicate with Patients with Mobility Issues

Mobility issues limit and often prevent patients from getting out of hospital beds. This means that proper whiteboard placement becomes essential. In order to maximize a patient’s ability to read a whiteboard without getting out of bed, it’s often best to:

  • Place the whiteboard at eye level (for patients sitting up in bed) on the wall
  • Place whiteboards no more than 10 feet away from the patient’s bedside, and with an unobstructed view.
  • Increase font sizes if room limitations require whiteboards to be placed further away.
  • Place the patient in a wheelchair closer to the whiteboards if they are having trouble reading it while you communicate with them.


Using Whiteboards to Communicate with People with Cognitive Disabilities

Various cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities limit the speech, hearing, and focus of patients. These can present significant difficulties when communicating with patients, and they can even affect the amount of information patients retain as a result. When communicating with patients with these types of difficulties, it’s most effective to refer often to the whiteboards and show the patient where they can find the applicable information on the whiteboard after the provider leaves. This will maximize the chances of patients using the whiteboard to retain and refer to information on their condition and plan of care.

Whiteboards can help patients with cognitive disabilities:

  • Recall the names of care team members
  • Stay focused on their discharge goals
  • Keep track of their treatment plan and schedule
  • Refer to their test results when needed
  • Avoid sensory overload and anxiety by increasing their involvement in their care


Communicating with patients can be challenging. Let us make it easy for you. Contact Ghent Healthcare to start designing your patient room whiteboard today.