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Think of the anxiety that comes with being lost. Now add a layer of fear and a good dose of nerves caused by dealing with medical tests, sickness and surgery – or coming to see friends and family coping with them. That’s what patients and visitors feel when they can’t find their way in a hospital. “To be sick and dealing with cancer issues in a building that is not user friendly is your worst nightmare,” said a patient quoted in a 2014 Wall Street Journal article on the topic.

Statistics back up such anecdotal information from patients. According to Deloitte Digital, 30% of first-time visitors get confused and lost in hospitals. And they can’t necessarily rely on staff to help them: 25% say they can’t locate some destination within their own hospitals.

Because of this, hospitals have realized the value and necessity of signage to guide people and remove some of the worry involved in a visit, and many have successfully incorporated digital signage into their wayfinding solutions. However, continued spending and new thinking around digital wayfinding could help improve the patient experience – and contribute to the bottom line – at a time when both are vitally important to the success or failure of a hospital.

Raise your content game

According to Revista, an Annapolis, Maryland-based company that began tracking medical construction in 2014, healthcare construction nationwide is booming. And spending on electronic wayfinding projects in both existing and new construction is underway or on the horizon in 15% of hospitals, according to a 2016 Health Facilities Management survey on hospital construction.

Between new construction, larger, more complex facilities and proposed spending on wayfinding projects, hospitals have ample opportunity to raise their game on their digital signs and kiosks. If your hospital is one of them, it’s a great time to rethink the content and placement of your digital signage:

Is your content understandable? That means written in layman’s terms, not medical jargon.

Is it readable? It needs to be large and clear enough for those with vision problems.

Is it mobile? This is important to those who need to take a map or directions with them.

Is it inclusive? Supporting multiple languages is an increasing priority that digital solutions help hospitals deal with.

One final question to ask yourself about construction and renovation projects: does the signage in a new building fit successfully into the old? Is your solution consistent between buildings, or will patients think they’re entering a different world when moving from one to another?

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Integrate mobile apps into wayfinding

While wayfinding via digital signage in hospitals isn’t new, integrating it into mobile apps is.

In May 2012, the Mayo Clinic introduced a smartphone app to help people find their way in the hospital’s huge Rochester, Minn., complex. Many of its 59 buildings and 16 million square feet are connected by subterranean pedestrian walkways that make navigation even more confusing and overwhelming.

“A handful of folks at Mayo had an idea to build an e-concierge application to improve navigation and wayfinding for patients,” said Mark Henderson, information technology division chair at Mayo Clinic, in a Health Care Facilities Today article about the app. “At the time, there were no other healthcare companies doing something like this, but it seemed like the next logical step in portable technology.

The Mayo Clinic Patient app (which offers other functionality in addition to wayfinding) was downloaded more than 100,000 times in its first year, and receives high marks from users, according to reviews posted in the Apple store.

While the Mayo Clinic was a bit ahead of the curve, other hospitals will want to catch up. With almost three-quarters of Americans age 18 and older owning a smartphone (and make that 92% of people age 18 to 34), integrating mobile into wayfinding is becoming a necessity. Digital wayfinding solutions for smartphones allow maps and directions to be opened via the web, an app or in a text message. Once a visitor leaves a kiosk, they have turn-by-turn directions in the palm of their hands. If they have to make multiple stops, they can rely on their smartphone to guide the way.

Connect wayfinding to patient satisfaction

The influence of consumerism on health care facilities came through loud and clear from respondents to the Health Facilities construction survey, according to the publication and its partner in the study, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering. More than 86 percent of survey respondents said that patient satisfaction is very important in driving design changes to health facilities and/or services.

“The survey responses reflect what’s going on in the industry, namely that providers are trying to figure out what makes patients satisfied with the care and experience they receive at a hospital,” the publication said. This is particularly important in an era when patient satisfaction is more closely tied to Medicare reimbursement than ever.

It seems reasonable to assume that getting lost can decrease patient satisfaction. But can you back that up with data? Can you prove that the wayfinding solution you invested in is improving the patient experience and paying off for your hospital? A patient satisfaction survey should include questions that focus specifically on wayfinding and its impact on that experience.

Similarly, you can work with medical providers to figure out whether your wayfinding solution decreases the amount of time they spend giving directions or waiting for late patients. For an example of how to measure the financial impact of wayfinding (or lack thereof) on staff efficiency, take a look at our white paper, Wayfinding in Healthcare: The Cost of Getting Lost.

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