Guest Column | February 19, 2019

Digital Whiteboards Now Outshine Marker Boards In All Areas Including Costs

By Austin Winberg, SONIFI Health

Tackling Rising Healthcare Costs Requires Less Talk And More Action

New study shows 100-bed hospital saves hundreds of thousands switching to digital whiteboards.

Finding a whiteboard in a hospital room is about as common today as a bedside tray table. For decades, these marker boards have been a communication tool used by hospital staff and patients to note everything from the room number and patient allergies to the next clinical rounding time or current pain status.

From the beginning, traditional marker boards were well liked by both staff and patients who recognized how the presence of these notes promoted safety, team work, and interaction. The high satisfaction of this simple messaging solution naturally led to healthcare facilities working to standardize and further leverage this tool. Over time, the amount of information presented on the boards increased to where it has become time-consuming to maintain and present legibly. Whiteboards were soon outfitted with pre-printed templates or category stickers to help organize the plethora of information. Much of the innovation to hospital whiteboards through the years has focused on a cleaner, neater presentation of notes.

It was inevitable that digital displays would one day offer better options than the hand-written boards. With Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementations now ubiquitous, fully integrated digital solutions that automatically update are now possible and a recent reveals they deliver a broad range of advantages over traditional marker boards.

A cohort conducted at a 100-bed acute care hospital in Texas found that strong integrations with the EHR and key hospital systems transformed the digital whiteboard from a marker-free novelty to a strong contender for healthcare leaders seeking high impact solutions. The benefits were far-reaching for patients and staff with the cost to acquire and maintain surprisingly comparable to the traditional marker boards.

Advantages Of Digital Whiteboards

  • Accuracy

Digital whiteboards integrate with the EHR and other hospital systems for a consistently more accurate and more complete display than what is hand-scribed on a marker board. Room audits were included as part of this and showed that the manual updating of traditional boards frequently was incomplete or incorrect especially in key areas such as daily patient goal (65 percent complete/correct), pain score and goal (30 percent complete/correct) and expected discharge date (30 percent complete/correct). The integrated digital whiteboard solution moved all these categories to 100 percent complete/correct.

  • Time Savings

Time is probably the biggest reason traditional whiteboards often fall short of their potential. Keeping them up-to-date requires tracking down current information, locating a functional marker, and having enough uninterrupted time to write the data legibly without errors. The EHR integration digital whiteboard allowed a 22 bed-unit in the study to recover nearly 9 hours of staff time per day and reallocate that time to direct patient care.

  • Patient SatisfactionSONIFI Health Image 1

Patient satisfaction is always a goal, but within a value-based care scenario it holds an even more premium weight. Traditional marker boards have been known to frustrate patients if the information is not current or hard to read. A smudgy board or an incorrectly listed discharge time may contribute to lower scores for cleanliness or nurse communication. Patients responded favorably to the aesthetic of digital whiteboards and found the information trustworthy and easier to read. They appreciated that the digital boards could include things like their preferred name and language. They did not miss the feeling of being in a classroom trying to read someone else’s handwriting.

Surprising Findings

The study uncovered a few unexpected benefits as well. In addition to impacting accuracy, staff time, and patient satisfaction, digital whiteboards were able to positively influence education outcomes. Plus, cost comparisons of traditional whiteboards and digital whiteboards revealed investments to be quite similar though the value returned with the digital whiteboard was much greater.

Education Outcomes

When the digital whiteboard is part of an interactive education solution, the board can display a visual reminder of the amount of video education assigned and completed. This constant prompt increased both the amount of education assigned (up 200 percent post-implementation of digital solution) and the patient completion rates of assigned education (20 percent higher than control group).

Monetary Value

Digital whiteboards provide a meaningful return of investment through longevity, low maintenance costs, efficiencies and outcome gains. The numbers show that traditional marker boards require a lot of maintenance, cleaning and sterilization, and the boards need replacing about every 2 years. The costs of purchasing and maintaining digital displays are quite similar over a 5-year period. The returns from staff time savings and better care, however, produce well over a million dollars in savings per 100-beds over 5 years using a digital solution. It is a misperception that the digital whiteboard is a flashy gem of technology attached to a high price tag.

In conclusion, the marker-hunting moments may soon be over. The data shows that the combination of lower technology costs, the standard usage of electronic health records and other integrated hospital systems, and the establishment of value-based care now put digital whiteboards in a clear advantage over traditional whiteboards.

About The Author

Austin Winberg is Director Clinical Outcomes for SONIFI Health.