Using Whiteboards to Improve Visual Communication in Healthcare

Feb 24, 2021

hospital whiteboard

There are many ways for information to be presented to a personbut none are more effective than visual communication (the use of illustrations, graphs, photographs and other visual elements). Visual communication improves a person’s understanding of information. People remember up to 80% of what they see because the brain processes visual information quicker and more thoroughly. Scientists at MIT have discovered that images can be processed and remembered in mere milliseconds (the literal blink of an eye); the human brain is simply hardwired for visual content. 

Visual Communication in Healthcare 

When applying these concepts to patient communication, it becomes clear that communicating with visual aids can be a powerful tool for providers. This is especially true in a time when visual cues are being limited. Wearing masks makes it harder for patients to pick up on facial expressions that broadcast empathy and other interpersonal cues. To make up for this gap, providers can supplement their conversations using healthcare whiteboards in a number of ways. 

Providing Visual Explanations 

The human body is a complex thing, as are the illnesses and conditions that can inflict it. Combine this with the complexity of the healthcare system and treatment and it becomes too much for any ordinary person to understand. These complexities can be lost on patients, especially those who are anxious about their future and wellbeing. Providers can verbally explain an illness and its symptoms, outlook, and treatment, but patients and their family may not always understand what is being said to them. Explanations that incorporate visual elements can help people absorb the information that is being presented to them. 

That’s where whiteboards can help. As visual communication tools, whiteboards can be used by providers to help them explain complex issues and treatments being faced by a patient. Providers can use a blank space on whiteboards to draw images and diagrams, list out treatment options, define terms, and anything else they believe can adequately supplement what they are trying to convey to patients. These visual aids can help patients better digest the information being presented to them, and it’s also likely they will view their treatment and hospital stay more favorably. 

Organization and Scheduling 

For longer-term patients who are set to stay in a facility for days and weeks, patient room whiteboards can be used as a visual reminder for many things, including: 


  • Schedules for upcoming events
  • - Goals for the day or for discharge
  • - Normal and expected symptoms
  • - Abnormal and dangerous symptoms
  • - Reminders to call before getting out of bed
  • - Reminders for visitors to wash their hands and wear masks
  • - Actions that patients are discouraged from taking (i.e. getting up without calling for aid, etc.)


These visual aids will help keep patients organized during their stay while providing helpful information to them throughout their recovery and treatment process. 

Helping Patients Focus 

We live in a world of information overload, and when people are put under duress, our senses can begin to shut down. We stop processing information and forget things. Healthcare providers can use whiteboards to call attention to the most important parts of their conversation. They are a constant visual reminder of what needs to be focused on, what should be memorized, and what's important. When a lot of information is being presented, it’s not uncommon for most of it to become lost. Using whiteboards as a communication aid gives the information a physical form; something that can be seen, touched, and interacted with by patients on a daily basis. 


Give something visual for your patients and providers to use while communicating? Read our collected research on the effectiveness of healthcare whiteboards today.