Patient Communication Boards: What Is It? And How Does It Help?

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Good communication is essential between the patients and the health care providers. That is why communication boards are placed in the patient care rooms.

Communication Boards are rewritable whiteboards placed inside the patient care rooms, besides every patient’s bed. The purpose is to support communication between the patients, their families, and the medical care team during their stay. Anyone entering the patient care room can look at the board to see what the care plan is and whether there are any special requests or notes from the patient and their families.

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In the initial stages, the Communication Boards consisted of the date and day of the week, the patient’s physician, nurse, and other caregivers. Later on, it included the pain medication schedule and goals for the day. It also involved additional sections based on patient feedback. At the same time, this tool was becoming too hard to maintain.

With the advancement in technology, patient communication board templates were designed according to healthcare facilities and feedback. These boards are easy to clean, update, and replace if needed.

Communication boards have been valuable in enhancing communication in patients receiving mechanical ventilation and critical care. The patient may either point out the images or say “yes” or “no” when posed with questions.

Six Key Elements of Patient Communication Board

Patient Communication Boards are ideal for sharing essential information and care details with the patients, their families, and visitors within a patient’s room or throughout the facility.

1. Information Must Be Simple and Beneficial

The information displayed on the Patient Communication Boards must be in a clear, easily understandable format. It should be relevant and beneficial to the staff, patients, and their family members. The use of proper information can enhance therapeutic value.

Bear in mind that everyone may not be fluent in English, may have varied reading levels and limited medical vocabulary.

2. Employ Visual Cues and Colors

Using perceivable, clear visual cues and appropriate colors may eliminate communication errors. Using universal symbols that are easier to follow may also help overcome language barriers. Again, maintaining simplicity is important.

3. Establish Unique System and Branding

Every healthcare facility has a unique system. Communication Boards must reflect the philosophical system, style, and facility’s identity through terminology, graphics, and colors. The information should be structured with clarity and consistency and customized to fit the facility’s branding guidelines.

4. Patient Satisfaction

Communication Boards used with enhanced transparency promotes open communication between staff, patients, and their family members. A relatable display of information that is clear and visually appealing may potentially improve patient satisfaction scores.

5. Language

By customizing the Communication Board system, a facility can use various language inserts for easy communication between the patient and staff. Reduce language barriers by letting the boards speak to the patients in their language and improve patient satisfaction.

6. Customization

Communication devices must be flexible enough to easily adapt if the facility expands or anticipates change. So, Communication Boards can’t be rigid and must evolve and adapt to keep pace with changes.

Collaboration among the administration, providers, nursing staff, ancillary staff, and technicians may help maximize the use of Patient Communication Boards.

Four Things to Avoid on Patient Communication Board

Avoiding certain elements can make the patient communication board more pertinent.

1. Avoid Irrelevant Information

Incorporating irrelevant data could make the communication board cluttered. A disorganized board could result in frustration and misinterpretation of the written information.

2. Ideograms and Phrases

Some phrases such as “Make sure we wash our hands” or “Ensure we ask your name and date of birth” and inappropriate ideograms may annoy the patients. Intentions behind these phrases may be to communicate a few important points to the patient in a friendly manner, but it is not the patient’s duty to ensure whether you wash your hands or not.

3. Appointment List

Adding an appointment list may be beneficial. The change in appointments may affect the perception of care.

4. Patient Goals

The “patient goals” section could be beneficial for some patients. Some patients may be unable to complete it daily due to their condition. Since it is hard to maintain it daily, it would be better to reconsider this section while designing the communication board.

Communication Board for Stroke Patients

Aphasia, difficulty with communication, is the common symptom that most stroke survivors experience. As the brain rewires itself and restores nerve connections, the ability to communicate may increase. During recovery, communication boards help these patients to enhance their communication skills and express their feelings.

Communication Board would include:

  • Numbers, Alphabets, Symbols or Images to point at
  • Pain Chart with images representing the type of pain
  • Images for “Yes, No, Good, Bad, Repeat”
  • Images or Words for “I Feel”
  • Images or Words for “I Want”
  • Images or Words for “I Need Help”
  • Images or Words for “I Want To See”

Communication Board for Ventilator Patients

Communication at the bedside is limited, and the ability to engage in discussion is compromised based on the clinical condition or severity of the illness. Patients who are ventilator dependent experience difficulties with communication due to intubation. Communication boards are used that consist of pictures and icons interpreting basic needs.

Communication Board would include:

  • Numbers and Alphabets
  • Pain Chart
  • Images for Pain Medication if needed
  • Images or Words for “I Feel”
  • Images or Words for “I Want”
  • Images or Words for “I Want To See”
  • Images for “Yes” or “No”

Communication Board for Autism Patients

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.

Some autistic people have maintaining eye contact, difficulty gesturing, delayed speech, or don’t speak at all. Communication boards help children learn the functional language using pictures to meet their physical and emotional needs. It allows them to become more independent.

Communication for autistic people would include:

  • Symbols, Images, Photographs of Real Objects and People
  • Images for daily activities and schedules
  • Communication through Toys for children
  • Alphabets and Numbers
  • Board Games, Puzzles
  • Etc.

Communication boards, along with other devices such as computer programs and apps, can help develop positive social interactions and language skills and ease communication difficulty.


A communication board is a tool that facilitates effective communication between the patient, their family and visitors, and the medical care team. Good communication improves patient experience, especially when key information is made available. A good communication board should be customized to the hospital’s needs and act as a visual tool to anyone who enters the patient care room resulting in better communication.

It is important to use communication boards effectively to improve patient-staff communication. If not, these communication boards can become the cause of miscommunication or patient frustration.

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