How to fix wayfinding in hospitals

We're using technology more and more to create a patient-first approach for healthcare, but how can we combine the digital and in-person experience to finally solve way finding for hospitals?

I was listening to the latest episode of the touchpoint Podcast, TP155 – Digital Signage and the Patient Experience.

Reed and Chris did a great job talking about a non-sexy part of the patient experience that is so often overlooked: signage. They focused mostly on the countless opportunites to use digital signage to communicate information, but I think an overlooked use is wayfinding.

Wayfinding at hospitals is hard

Whether you are in a hospital or trying to find your way around a university, large campuses are hard to navigate. Parking garages can be available on various sides, with your final destination blocks away.

The classic “you are here” map can help you navigate buildings, but getting to the right parking garage, the right building, the right floor, the right suite is still hard.

Hospital campuses are often in city-centers, making common visitors not familiar with the area, especially if they are under stress due to illness or injury.

Hospital websites don’t help the problem

I have yet to come across a hospital website that seeks to fix this problem.

We’re so busy going after the next thing that we forget one of the key goals of our website: getting a patient to physically receive care. Wayfinding should be one of our top priorities!

But often the locations information is at the hospital level, which offers little help, or the words used online don’t match the existing signage–as marketing owns the digital experience and facilities owns the signs.

What would be ideal?

Where are patients getting addresses and location information? It’s not just from your website. Some places I can think of:

  • Google or Apple Maps
  • Email confirmation from the hospital or physician’s office
  • Reminder text-messages from the hospital or physician’s office
  • Services pages on the hospital or physician website
  • Third-party websites, such as Healthgrades
  • Facebook pages
  • Office staff via a phone call

No matter where they come from, we have an opportunity to use a mix of digital and physical tools to help guide a patient to where they need to be.

This could look like:

  1. Locations, doctor, and services information is connected so I can look up the endocrinology off, Dr. Smith, or go to the diabetes page and no matter what, I’m able to get locations data.
  2. Google Rich Snippet displays an accurate location for my search, which is accurate because the hospital follows strict NAP guidelines. If I am on the hospital site, I have the option to get notified on when to leave for my appointment, taking into consideration real traffic and my location.
  3. I’m directed to the closet patient parking garage.
  4. The location information not only gave me the name of the building, which matches the large and easy-to-read building names but where I need to check-in, how I get to the elevator, and if I should turn left or right.
  5. I see both non-digital and digital signage that isn’t just advertisements for prescription drugs, the next non-profit 5k, or a donor’s face, but one that gives me the information I need.
  6. I get to my appointment on time!

Are we ready for this?

As we continue to look at more and more technology solutions to move hospitals to be more patient-first, we can’t ignore the non-digital parts of healthcare. Even in the world of telehealth, so much of our healthcare MUST be done in-person.

With the cost of missed appointments so high, let’s start to tackle this problem by bridging the gap between these two worlds.

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