Designing Simple Tools for Improving Healthcare Communication 

A flag instead of an app? 

While on call as the attending physician for our inpatient service the other day, I was walking down the hospital corridor with the team of fellows, residents, and students to round on our patients. The medical student on the team was carrying this physical flag, which has a magnetic end that allows it to stick to the side of a patient room door (yes that is one of the glorious jobs of the medical student!).

The sign that signals that rounds is happening! This communication solution doesn’t cost a lot of money, although it is a pretty intricately stitched flag with all the endocrine organs!

The team puts the flag up (GI/ENDO stands for the Endocrinology and Gastrointestinal services) when they are in the room with the family, which is a physical signal to the nurses, who upon seeing the flag can join the team for rounds. I thought this was a pretty primitive but nifty solution to enhance communication between families, doctors, and nurses in the inpatient setting.

It’s a solution that reminded me of the fish that Paul Bennett of IDEO uses to communicate when he is in the office, available for a creative chat.

People are coming up with all sorts of newfangled technology options (i.e. mobile applications) for healthcare communication, but as I have blogged before, maybe the low-cost, low-tech solutions can be as or more effective than the super fancy high-tech solutions. What communication hacks have you seen/witnessed in healthcare? Leave a note here or tweet them to me!

I have no financial or personal affiliations with the maker of that flag! I post about healthcare and design on Medium ( and you can also find me tweeting about #design #mhealth and #dataviz on Twitter: @joyclee, as I continue on my #designthinking #adventure!