How to Increase Hospital Productivity with Dry Erase Walls
Traditional framed whiteboards have long been a part of communications systems in medical facilities such as clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health centers. For years, physicians, nurses, and other medical staff members have regularly used whiteboards and found them to be helpful for conveying information about patients’ health status, nutritional needs, and other topics. Although initially utilized only for communication among medical staff in operating suites, whiteboards eventually became resources for passing on information about care status and other issues to patients and family members as well.
However, with the development of premium dry erase painted walls as larger, more broadly functional communications tools, traditional whiteboards are being phased out as tools for healthcare providers to interact with one another and their patients. By means of their vastly larger writing surfaces and greater ease of use, premium dry erase walls offer extra latitude and convenience to medical staff in conducting their daily interactions. On the walls, caregivers can list all vital patient data, post daily surgery schedules, report on patients’ current health status, and much more.
Early Uses of Traditional Whiteboards in Hospitals
When first installed in hospitals, traditional framed whiteboards were known as “grease boards” and were employed only for communication among staff members. A prime example of the early use of whiteboards in hospitals was in operating suites. There the boards specified which patients were scheduled to go to which rooms for surgery, as well as the surgeons, nurses, and ancillary personnel that would be working during each surgical procedure.
Having proven successful in operating suites, whiteboards then began to appear in other parts of hospitals as well. Teams of nurses started using the boards to communicate with one another about staff assignments, changes in shift schedules, placement of patients in rooms, and other details. These boards were and still are typically located near a hospital unit’s nurses’ station for reference by members of the team throughout a shift and for leaving messages to nurses working on other shifts.
Changing Over to Dry Erase Walls Enhances Communication
Nowadays, however, dry erase walls are being increasingly installed in hospitals to replace traditional framed whiteboards, which have much more limited writing surfaces and are thus less useful and convenient. In the hospital setting, dry erase painted walls can be of more benefit to physicians, nurses, and other staff due to their larger size and greater handiness. In addition, they offer more room for posting information, so they improve staff-to-staff and staff-to-patient communication. The walls also give patients knowledge about their healthcare providers and help in monitoring plans for admission and length of stay, among other benefits.
This type of information can significantly improve patients’ happiness and satisfaction with the care they receive while in the hospital and also boost their confidence in their caregivers. So, applying premium dry erase paint to the walls in patients’ rooms, at nurses’ stations, in operating suites, in day rooms, and in other parts of a hospital is a great way to improve a medical team’s interactions and patients’ experience. When installed in patients’ rooms, for instance, dry erase walls permit the healthcare providers on duty to pass on a large amount of useful information both during a shift and from shift to shift.
The Introduction of Patient-centered Care
Approximately 20 years ago, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), which offers advice on issues related to health, healthcare policy, medicine, and biomedical research, began suggesting the idea of patient-centered care to healthcare professionals. This approach involves effective and frequent communication among care providers and between caregivers and patients. Subsequently, hospitals and healthcare teams began using patient whiteboards as basic communication tools to improve patient satisfaction, realizing that better-informed patients have a superior overall care experience and feel a greater sense of happiness with their stay in the hospital.
Dry Erase Walls Enhance Patient-centered Communication and Care
Dry erase painted walls are much more effective than traditional whiteboards in advancing the quality of patient-centered care. Being as large as an entire wall at a nurse’s station or in a patient’s room, day room, physician’s office, or other hospital space, dry erase walls offer users great latitude and convenience. On the other hand, traditional framed whiteboards only come in a limited range of sizes, typically 4’ X 6’, so hospital personnel are restricted in terms of how much writing they can do in any given part of the facility. This situation results in staff members often being unable to fit all of the information they need to convey on the small surface of a traditional whiteboard, particularly when many details need to be included.
For example, typical types of data that you may find helpful to have entered on a whiteboard wall in a patient’s room include the following:
· Room and bed number
· Current date
· Names of patient’s care-team members and counselor
· Name that the attending nurse prefers to be called
· Patient’s treatment plan for the day, including items such as CAT scans, MRIs, surgeries, etc.
· Patient’s activity goals; e. g., walk the hallway three times a day
· Patient’s fluid and food intake goals and requirements; e. g., nothing by mouth (NPO), vegetarian diet, etc.
· Patient’s meal times; e. g., 8:00 AM; 12:00 PM; and 6:00 PM
· Miscellaneous information related to the patient’s care and personal needs.
In contrast to traditional whiteboards, all such information can be posted in as much detail as needed on dry erase painted walls, which have virtually limitless writing surfaces. This is true for dry erase walls wherever they may be located in a hospital. As a result, physicians, nurses, and other hospital staff are able to communicate and interact more effectively with one another and with patients and their families through the use of dry erase walls.
The Problem with Traditional Framed Whiteboards
Although the original goal of using traditional whiteboards for hospital communications was noble, filling patients’ boards with all of the information that later needs to be entered into a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) may be difficult or impossible for nurses with heavy daily schedules.
For nurses and other members of a hospital’s staff, if patients’ whiteboards are not accurately and completely filled in with all the required and updated data during each shift, and all changes in the patient’s care status are not noted or are incompletely entered, friction can occur among staff members. This, in turn, leads to breakdowns in staff-to-staff and staff-to-patient communication and, ultimately, to less effective health care and unhappy patients.
In such cases, complete and precise data about patients’ dietary requirements, present activity level, discharge date, preferred family contacts, and other topics need to be recorded on a patient whiteboard. And suppose insufficient room exists on the board to post all of this information accurately and completely. In that case, a traditional framed whiteboard suddenly changes from a valuable communication tool into a source of unwanted issues for both patients and hospital staff. This scenario can create the impression of a disjointed or poorly prepared care team and may also result in safety concerns.
Lack of Sufficient Writing Space is Never an Issue with Dry Erase Walls
Top-quality dry erase painted walls are designed to accommodate large amounts of such data and to look attractive and function effectively for ten-plus years of continuous use in hospitals and other settings. In addition, dry erase walls provide large, efficient, and user-friendly surfaces for managing and keeping track of patient-staff interactions, nurses’ time schedules, patients’ medical requirements, patient tracking, and much more. Installing the walls in patients’ rooms, operating suites, and other locations around a hospital can thus offer invaluable aid to healthcare providers by conveying vast amounts of information and engaging patients more fully in their care.