Patient Communication Linked to Health Care Treatment, New Study Shows

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A recent study revealed an increased level of frustration experienced by hospital patients who must be mechanically ventilated and are therefore unable to speak.

A recent medical study published in the September/October 2004 issue of “Heart and Lung” medical journal shows that a majority of patients who need to be mechanically ventilated experience high levels of frustration with their inability to effectively communicate their needs and questions. The undue stress and anxiety and potential complications caused by this patient communication barrier can subsequently affect the treatment and experience of the nonverbal patient and possibly lead to prolonged hospital stay.

The study was comprised of 29 previously intubated patients. The patients participated in a consensual interview consisting of a 13-question survey intended to obtain in-depth qualitative data on the patients’ communication needs and barriers while being mechanically ventilated. The survey also evaluated the perceived helpfulness of Vidatak’s EZ Board, a patient communication device targeted toward nonverbal patients.

After an in-depth analysis, the results showed 62 percent of the patients surveyed reported high levels of frustration associated with their inability to effectively communicate while being mechanically ventilated.

Doug Logan, a former cardiac patient, expressed a similar situation during his hospital stay at an east coast hospital. “[The nurse] came in, turned the TV on to some talk show, and turned up the volume to max so she could hear it at her desk. Since it was impossible to sleep, I began experimenting with my breathing. I noticed that I could get more oxygen if I breathed a little faster. The nurse eventually came over and said, ‘Well, I thought we'd be able to take the tube out pretty soon, but your breathing is erratic. We'll have to leave it in’. I immediately began shaking my head and making writing motions with my hand. She said, ‘No, no. We never give pen and paper to patients in the ICU. The notes never make sense, and you won't remember anyway.’ She walked off, and that was that.”

Though Mr. Logan was not one of the 29 patients surveyed, his account only strengthens the findings of the study. The need for health care providers to intervene with patient communication was the overall theme of the surveyed patients’ responses.

The conclusions from the study recommended five interventions that may help in facilitating patient communication. According to the study, health care practitioners should:

• Be educated regarding the level of frustration that mechanically ventilated patients experience when communicating

• Routinely ask patients short, “yes” and “no” questions about their feelings and state of mind

• Be attentive to the mechanically ventilated patients, inform them of the plan of care, and establish a return time when they leave the bedside

• Approach patients with a kind and patient demeanor, and investigate their communication needs

• Provide writing materials and read the patient’s words as they write

“A patient’s written words represent invaluable thoughts during such a critical period in their life,” said Dr. Lance Patak, President of Vidatak, LLC and principal investigator in the study. “It is therefore important that health care providers keep writing tools available for the patient, and that the writings be read.”

This study also demonstrated that the EZ Board developed by Vidatak is a tool that makes patient communication effortless, effective and speedy. The patient simply points to the text and icons to convey their message, or writes on it with the provided dry erase markers. The light-weight, portable, non-electronic patient communication device features preprinted text for expressing basic feelings and needs and literal text that was selected and designed by patients who had experienced mechanical ventilation. The Vidatak EZ Board is the only research-based patient communication device available to assist with patient communication in the acute care setting. With benefits ranging from being able to identify nonverbal patient’s needs, feelings, or state of mind, to asking about procedures beforehand, caretakers who intervene using the Vidatak EZ Board can greatly affect the comfort and satisfaction of their patients.

For more information regarding the study and the EZ Board, visit View the EZ Board news release at

About Vidatak, LLC:

Established in 1999, Vidatak Enterprises began distributing their augmentative patient communication products to hospitals all over the country. By 2003, Vidatak had changed its name, ownership, and business models. Now, Vidatak, LLC continues to present their research findings and critical care patient communication aids at various conferences, seeking distributors in critical care, rehabilitation medicine, and speech pathology/therapy.

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Dr. Lance Patak, President
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