Patient ideas fuel award-winning whiteboard design

When Lucretia Jackson entered the hospital for surgery in January, she knew she would never be in the dark about her care. From the moment she woke up, Lucretia would know when her next test was scheduled, what level of pain she should expect, the names of the nurses caring for her, what number to call for questions, and much more.

She knew this because she had helped design the whiteboards hanging in every patient’s room.

Lucretia is a patient advisor on the hospital’s Patient Safety Committee that developed the whiteboards. “It was a comfort for me,” she says, “because when the nurses came in, I could call them by name. They discussed my goals, my potential discharge date, and my pain management. Everything was clearly addressed and included on the whiteboard.”

New Approach Wins Accolades

Unlike traditional inpatient room whiteboards, the new patient and family-centered whiteboards at AAMC are not blank slates, but rather charts to be filled in with the information patients want to know.

A new approach that rethinks the way hospitals communicate with their patients, the whiteboards won the prestigious 2015 Minogue Award for Patient Safety Innovation. It’s the highest award given by the Maryland Patient Safety Center, and the new whiteboard was selected from among 74 other innovative ideas from Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New York.

Shirley Knelly, AAMC’s vice president for Patient Safety and Quality, says patient advisors such as Lucretia helped identify the need for a better way to communicate with patients and families.

Together, they came up with an idea for a revised whiteboard and designed it based on patient input.

“Originally, we wanted to use the boards to tell patients what we thought they should know about,” says Shirley. “Our ideas included such things as their dietary requirements and fall risk, but that’s not what’s most important to a patient. What’s important to the patient is when they are scheduled for tests such as MRIs and x-rays, and what to do if they have questions. They want to be assured that hospital staff have the name of a contact person to call if they can’t speak for themselves.”

Those are things the safety committee has included in the whiteboards, and they’ve trained every member of the patient care teams to use them. “It’s a different level of transparency from the patient’s perspective,” says Lucretia.

The innovative approach has gained a great deal of attention from other hospitals. In March, Lucretia and Shirley gave a presentation on the whiteboards at the Maryland Patient Safety Center’s annual conference. “Three hundred participants attended the presentation,” Shirley says. “Many hospitals have asked for a copy of our whiteboards.”

Shirley says she was overwhelmed with excitement when she heard the patient and family-centered inpatient whiteboards had been chosen for the Minogue Award. “The family advisors and the patient safety committee worked so hard on the board,” she says. “To be recognized statewide as the winner of this award is something we are very proud of, but what’s most satisfying is that it really improves the patient and family experience here at AAMC, and that other hospitals are going to be using it, too.”

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