St. Rose gives all project red patients notepads and pens when they enter the hospital and encourages them to record their questions.
Our patients are dealing with a lot when they’re in the hospital. They’re visited by many different people and each person is giving them different information and instructions. When our patient advocates visited them, the patients would have lots of questions that they didn’t get a chance to ask their medical team. We always told them to write those questions down and ask their doctors later. They wouldn’t always do that though and would forget to ask their doctors.
St. Rose is a non-profit hospital in Hayward, CA. It has 217 beds and serves a diverse, low-income population including Spanish, Hindi, and Tagalog speakers. Their transitions program began in 2012 and is influenced by Project RED.
What We Tried
We received a couple hundred small red notebooks and pens from our marketing department. They’re the small spiral notebooks that you can get from any store. We decided to give them to patients when we visited them for the first time—so, then when we said “Write that question down for your doctor,” they would have a tool to do that with. We also put the patient’s medical record number in the front of the book. That way when they were discharged, they could give that number to their primary care physician to retrieve their records, if needed.
Providing a notepad and pen is such a simple move but it makes a huge difference. We noticed that the patients who had notebooks seemed to listen to us more and felt more empowered to ask all of their questions, no matter how small or large.
Even after patients leave, they continue to use the notebooks. We’ve had patients come back months later and ask for another notebook because they had run out of pages.
The red notebooks are also a great way to make the patients feel special and help them remember who we are. Even if our patients can’t remember the transitional care team specifically, they remember the people who gave them a red notepad as a gift. They associate us with the notebook and it sets us apart from all of the other people with whom they interact.
Start small and then go big. Our first batch of notebooks and pens were just extras that the marketing team had on hand. We gave them out to patients if we remembered, but didn’t make it an official part of our program until we saw what a big impact it had.