How a Simple Notepad Enhances Patient-Centered Care

Providing a notepad prompting patients to ask questions increased patients' satisfaction with physician communication, according to a study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

The University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor developed a patient communication tool called Dear Doctor, a bedside notepad to enhance patient-centered care. The DD notepad includes a sample question and space for questions in three categories: diagnostic and treatment, tests and procedures and medications. There is also room for other miscellaneous questions.

From July 2009 through September 2009, 65 percent of the inpatients who received a DD notepad and pen reported taking notes related to their hospital stay, compared with only 22 percent of patients who did not receive a notepad. Among patients who used the DD notepads, 99 percent of patients used the tool to write down questions, 82 percent used it to keep track of tests and procedures and 54 percent reported their family and friends also used the notepad.

The patients who used the DD notepad had their questions answered by their physician more often than the control patients. Furthermore, 93 percent of patients using the DD notepad said they would use it again in the future.

While an intention-to-treat analysis found no difference in overall communication ratings between the intervention and control groups, all patients who used the DD notepads reported that communication with their physicians improved, according to the study.

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