Patient whiteboards as a communication tool in the hospital setting: a survey of practices and recommendations

J Hosp Med. 2010 Apr;5(4):234-9. doi: 10.1002/jhm.638.


Background: Patient whiteboards can serve as a communication tool between hospital providers and as a mechanism to engage patients in their care, but little is known about their current use or best practices.

Methods: We surveyed bedside nurses, internal medicine housestaff, and hospitalists from the medical service at the University of California, San Francisco. A brief survey about self-reported whiteboard practices and their impact on patient care was administered via paper and a commercial online survey tool.

Results: Surveys were collected from 104 nurse respondents (81% response rate), 118 internal medicine housestaff (74% response rate), and 31 hospitalists (86% response rate). Nurses were far more likely to use and read whiteboards than physicians. While all respondents highly valued the utility of family contact information on whiteboards, nurses valued the importance of a "goal for the day" and an "anticipated discharge date" more than physicians. Most respondents believed that nurses should be responsible for accurate and updated information on whiteboards, that goals for the day should be created by a nurse and physician together, and that unavailability of pens was the greatest barrier to use.

Discussion: Despite differences in practice patterns of nurses and physicians in using whiteboards, our findings suggest that all providers value their potential as a tool to improve teamwork, communication, and patient care. Successful adoption of whiteboard use may be enhanced through strategies that emphasize a patient-centered focus while also addressing important barriers to use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Audiovisual Aids / statistics & numerical data*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospital Information Systems / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Patient Participation*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • San Francisco