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Improving patients’ ability to identify their physicians through the use of physician facecards and whiteboards
  1. Kramer Wahlberg,
  2. Shea Lambirth,
  3. Zechariah Gardner
  1. Internal Medicine, University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington, Vermont, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kramer Wahlberg; kramer.wahlberg{at}


Background Hospitalised patients are often not able to correctly identify members of their physician team. Identifying physicians is a critical component of developing the patient–physician relationship and visual aids have been shown to improve physician identification and overall patient satisfaction.

Objectives The aim of this quality improvement study was to assess the impact of implementation of a physician facecard on the ability of patients to identify their attending physician and other members of the physician team, as well as to evaluate current use of patient whiteboards for physician team identification.

Methods We prospectively studied 149 patients admitted to the medicine teaching service, who were randomised to receive a physician facecard or usual care. Patients were surveyed to determine their ability to identify physician team members. Observational data was also collected regarding use of patient whiteboards. Additionally, all hospitalists were surveyed to assess their perception of these visual aids.

Results Patients who received the facecard were more likely to recall the name of the attending physician as compared with the control group (63% vs 32%, p<0.01). Additionally, 68% of patients with the attending name correctly listed on their whiteboard were able to correctly identify the attending physician (p<0.01). Ninety per cent of patients who both received a facecard and had their whiteboard correctly filled out were able to identify the attending physician. Eighty per cent of hospitalists surveyed agreed that use of the facecard added value and 90% disagreed that routine use of the facecard was burdensome.

Conclusion The use of physician facecards improves the ability of hospitalised patients to identify their attending physicians, and the combined use of facecards and whiteboards may provide additive benefits.

  • facecard
  • whiteboard
  • communication
  • quality improvement

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  • Contributors ZG and SL were responsible for the conception and initial design of the study and study materials, with KW helping to finalise the study materials and IRB protocol. Data collection was performed by KW and ZG. Data analysis was primarily performed by KW with guidance from ZG. KW is the primary author of the manuscript, but ZG and SL were involved in the revision and approval process.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The University of Vermont Medical Center Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data are available upon reasonable request.

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