Home » HCI Blog » Digital vs. Dry Erase: 5 Things To Know

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Here’s how dry erase boards cost you money

Considering replacing your dry erase marker boards? Here are five things to know about dry erase boards that may change your mind. Transitioning to a digital, touchscreen solution for interacting with and displaying patient data will lower your operating costs and raise your HCAHPS scores.

1) Handwritten data can be s-l-o-w and sloppy

Handwritten dry erase board showing confusing patient data

Dry erase marker boards require caregivers to hand write patient information, which may not always be possible due to scheduling, shift workloads and lack of process training for new or traveling nursing or clinical staff. Let’s face it – many nurses think it takes too much time to constantly write updated information on a dry erase board[1]. You’re adding steps to the workflow. As a result, the written patient information may be latent as a patient’s condition changes and information is not carefully updated. Patients don’t know what’s going on and caregivers aren’t collaborating in their planning.

2) PHI & safety standards

Scribing and transmitting patient notes to the EHR is a laborious process.

Having a secure transmittal process in place to protect PHI is mandatory[a]. You can’t be sure that handwritten dry erase board information is securely transmitted to the EHR, so moving the written patient board information requires a commitment to scribing or transmittal[2].That costs money and overhead in terms of people and time. When the marker board information isn’t correctly transmitted, patient safety is at risk. Also, information on the marker boards may be illegible or accidentally erased, in which case the caregivers’ notes are lost. What’s more, doctors may not have time to fully read through a medical scribe’s notes before signing and dating them.

3) The purchasing dilemma


The use of dry erase marker boards in patient rooms requires a substantial commitment to the cost of replacing marker boards as they become damaged over time. Recurring costs include the cost of the boards themselves, dry erase markers, erasers, eraser buckets, clips, magnets, paper flags and specialty cleaners. Don’t forget, that adds person-hours in getting purchase contracts for these items, or emergency ordering when supplies run out. Then there’s the question of finding a secure place to store all of the supplies.

4) Boooo! The ghost issue

"Ghost" images on patient hospital marker boards damage the surface and may cause miscommunication.

Even the most robust dry erase marker board surfaces “ghost” over time. Permanent markers might be accidentally used on the surface. Typically, people are in a hurry and use whatever marker is at hand. Oops! Dry erase boards may not be cleaned according to marker board cleaning guidelines, or cleaned with the wrong materials. That can damage the surface, which captures ink dust, which stains the surfaces of marker boards.

The “shadow” chart

Speaking of “ghost” data when using a dry erase board system, there’s the problematic “ghost chart” or “shadow chart”[3]. Clinicians and nurses may be tempted to print out a single component of information from the EHR when they’re meeting with a patient. Collaboration, record-keeping processes and diagnostic information are at risk. This type of record typically isn’t stored in an officially sanctioned hospital system, which could create additional problems.

5) Warning: Dust Hazard Ahead

Dry erase marker dust and dry erasers can harbor chemicals, and create dust in the air.

Finally, dry erase marker boards, no matter how carefully they are cleaned and maintained, create tiny dust particles which may compromise patient health when released into the ambient air. In some instances, respiratory conditions may mandate that a dry erase board can’t be used in a patient room. How do you capture important patient data in those cases? Dry marker erasers capture and hold ink particles – they can’t be fully cleaned and certainly can’t be disinfected. Many dry erase markers contain Methyl Isobutyl Ketone (MIK)[b], a powerful solvent, which is another potential issue for patients.

The digital advantage over dry erase

When integrated with existing systems like the EHR, Nurse Call, RTLS, and PACS to display patient information, members of the Care Team have current patient status and can collaborate on next steps. Rather than simply writing information on a dry erase board, which may or may not be current, HCI integrated digital whiteboards offer protected patient information from the EHR. Care, treatment and education content is immediately available and legible. Digital makes workflows more efficient since updates are immediate, at the bedside. There is no recurring replacement cost, so supply and printing costs plummet. Purchasing hours can be directed toward more productive activities.

Video for engagement and telehealth

Turn the hospital whiteboard into a video conduit for so they can stay connected with family and loved ones. Healthcare consumers expect your facility to have current technology to support them through their stay. A smart integration platform with digital whiteboards offer video and voice applications for telehealth and family check-ins, so family and friends are in the loop. Patients remain connected to loved ones during an anxious time. Not only that, but they have touchscreen access to prescribed education, relaxation content, entertainment and games.

Clinical staff also expect current digital technologies, especially as older nurses retire and a new generation of clinical and nursing professionals are on staff. With digital whiteboards, staff satisfaction increases and handover, ADT, anticipating workload and general patient flow become more efficient[4].

Workflow automation

Workflow and Pathway optimization provided by digital hospital whiteboard and patient engagement systems can help decrease clinical staff burnout by simplifying and streamlining normal rounding tasks. With touch-enabled, digital Patient Whiteboards inside patient rooms and at nursing stations, caregivers can set rounding, reassessment and pain timers and respond to Nurse Calls and alerts better. They can access and annotate PACS images, order patient equipment from the bedside, and push learning content directly to patient televisions from the Unit desk. The digital solution allows caregivers to monitor patients for risks, position and behavior changes.

Protected information and data analytics

Electronic medical record on tablet device over paper chart records. Touch-enabled digital whiteboards safeguard Patient Health Information and use password-protected access behind the firewall for updates. There’s no need for ghost or shadow charts since patient information is immediately available at the bedside. And since you need to make decisions based on KPIs, the integrated platform aggregates the patient data from the digital whiteboards and tablets behind the scenes. MediaCare provides automated reports, and is enterprise-ready so each use case/location can have personalized business rules. Data analytics are immediately available.

The bottom line

So if you’re considering replacing your existing dry erase marker boards with MORE dry erase marker boards, think again. Learn how digital whiteboards and a smart platform can save your facility money, increase HCAHPS scores and maintain patient data integrity. ditch the dry erase boards once and for all!

Learn how to ditch the dry erase boards!

[2] https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Guidance/Manuals/Downloads/clm104c12.pdf

[3] Balka E. Ghost charts and shadow records: implication for system design. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2010;160(Pt 1):686-90. PMID: 20841774.

[4] Li YH, Fitzgerald E, Roberts R. Electronic whiteboards improve the acute surgical patient admission process. N Z Med J. 2019 Feb 22;132(1490):10-16. PMID: 30789884.