Doctor Who? A Study of Patient Provider Awareness

1Duke University Hospital, Durham, NC
2Duke University, Durham, NC
3Duke University Health System, Durham, NC
4Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC
5Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC

Meeting: Hospital Medicine 2014, March 24-27, Las Vegas, Nev.

Abstract number: 101


Hospitalized patients often have multiple care providers and physicians frequently fail to introduce themselves and their role to patients. Patients’ lack of awareness of their medical providers may lead to decreased quality of care and patient satisfaction. The aim of this study was to investigate patients’ ability to identify their doctors and evaluate the impact of low cost interventions to improve patients’ awareness of their providers.


This study took place on the general medicine service at a tertiary care academic medical center. We examined the impact of two interventions: patient‐centered business cards and writing provider names on a white board in each patient room. Patient‐centered business cards utilize a physician photo with a description of roles using patient friendly language. These were designed by hospital medicine and the medicine residency program. Both interventions were available for use prior to the formal intervention period. Throughout the study, patients who had been in the hospital for 1‐3 days were surveyed for ability to identify one of their inpatient medical doctors by name or photo and for their perception of the importance of knowing doctors’ names in the hospital. During the intervention period, providers were educated on baseline rates of patient provider awareness and were encouraged to utilize business cards and white boards. Feedback on use of interventions was provided during rotation orientation and subsequent weekly educational sessions. This study was approved by the Duke Institutional Review Board.


Of 193 patients surveyed, 89% thought it was important or very important to know their doctors’ names. However, only 40% of patients could name one of their providers. Prior to the intervention period, 33% patients received business cards, 54% had updated white boards and 17% of patients received both. This improved to 36%, 61%, and 22% in the intervention period. Patients who reported receiving business cards knew one doctor’s name more often than those without a business card (48% and 39% respectively (difference = 9%, 95% CI: ‐6.8%, 26.1%). Patients with their physicians’ names on the white board knew their providers 48% of the time compared with 32% without whiteboard use (difference = 16%, 95% CI: 0.4%, 30%). Patients with both interventions named one of their physicians 51% compared with 39% without interventions (difference = 12%, 95% CI: ‐7%, 32%).


Only a minority of patients can correctly identify their physicians in the hospital. Low cost interventions like business cards and in‐room white boards can improve patient provider awareness but utilization of these interventions by physicians on our hospital service is low. Physicians may benefit frm further encouragement and training to make this a priority.

To cite this abstract:

Broderick‐Forsgren K, Hunter W, Sharma P, Schulteis R, Zaas A, Bae J. Doctor Who? A Study of Patient Provider Awareness. Abstract published at Hospital Medicine 2014, March 24-27, Las Vegas, Nev. Abstract 101. Journal of Hospital Medicine. 2014; 9 (suppl 2). Accessed March 28, 2020.

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