FACE cards have a small positive effect on hospital patients' ability to identify their physicians

Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356

Improving patients' ability to identify their hospital physicians and understand their doctors' roles is vital to safe patient care. However, patients report that doctors often fail to introduce themselves and that they do not understand their doctors' roles on their care team. With use of picture identification cards, patients were significantly more likely to correctly identify at least one inpatient physician (21.1 percent) than those without picture cards (12.5 percent), according to a new study. However, in spite of the picture cards, the majority of patients still could not correctly identify an inpatient physician.

Patients who cannot identify their inpatient physicians may be more likely to suffer harm and have difficulties obtaining answers to questions about their recent hospitalization after discharge, note the researchers. During the intervention period, team members (attending, resident, and intern physicians) introduced themselves to 857 inpatients at one hospital with the FACE (Feedback Care and Evaluation) cards, which were placed in plastic cardholders left in the rooms by environmental services staff. The size of a baseball card, each FACE card had a picture of the team member together with name and title. The reverse side included a description of the physician's level of training and specific role. Later, during an inpatient interview, research assistants asked patients to name their inpatient physicians and to rate their understanding of their physicians' roles.

The researchers were surprised that fewer patients rated their understanding of their physicians' roles as excellent or very good in the intervention period (45.6 percent) compared with the 1,686 patients at the same hospital during the baseline period before FACE cards (55.3 percent). The researchers speculated this was because the roles as listed on the cards were too confusing for the patients to understand. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16967).

See "Improving inpatients' identification of their doctors: Use of FACE cards," by Vineet M. Arora, M.D., M.A., Caitlin Schaninger, Michael D'Arcy, Ph.D., and others in the December 2009 Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 35(12), pp. 613-619.

Current as of April 2010
Internet Citation: FACE cards have a small positive effect on hospital patients' ability to identify their physicians: Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356. April 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr10/0410RA4.html