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Designing privacy-friendly digital whiteboards for mediation of clinical progress


Background: In hospitals, digital versions of dry-erase whiteboards are increasingly becoming more common. One
of the purposes with such whiteboards is to support coordination of care by augmenting visibility and availability
of clinical information. However, clinical information usually concerns patients and is regarded as sensitive personal
health information, meaning that it should be access controlled. The purpose of this study is to explore how digital
whiteboards can be designed for supporting coordination of care, by providing clinicians with useful information in
a usable way, and at the same time protect patient privacy.
Methods: A demo application was designed, demonstrated and evaluated iteratively. In total, 15 professional ward
nurses role-played a scenario in which the application played a central part. Afterwards, the participants were
interviewed. All interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed qualitatively.
Results: The participants valued having updated clinical information presented on a digital whiteboard, even if the
information was de-identified and abstracted. According to the participants, such information could possibly
improve inter-departmental communication, reduce the number of electronic health record-logins, and make nurses
more rapidly aware of new information. The participants expected that they would be able to re-identify much of
the de-identified information in real situations based on their insight into their patients’ recent and expected care
activities. Moreover, they also valued being able to easily access more detailed information and verify patient
identities. While abstraction and de-identification was regarded to sufficiently protect the patients’ privacy, the
nurses also pointed out the importance of having control over what can be seen by other patients and passers-by
if detailed medical information was accessed on a digital whiteboard.
Conclusions: Presenting updated information from patient care activities on a digital whiteboard in a de-identified
and abstracted format may support coordination of care at a hospital ward without compromising patient privacy.
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Academic article




  • Erlend Andreas Gjære
  • Børge Lillebo


  • SINTEF Digital / Software Engineering, Safety and Security
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology



Published in

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making




BioMed Central (BMC)




27 - 41

View this publication at Cristin