August 19, 2015

Advances In Wayfinding Technology Point Hospitals In The Right Direction

7 minute read

Advances in Wayfinding

Traditionally, hospital wayfinding has relied heavily on colour and symbolism, flooring and ceiling cues, easily identifiable landmarks, and static maps and signs. But today, this is no longer good enough, particularly since most hospitals that undergo renovation and expansion often fail to properly update their wayfinding program.

As a result, patients and visitors struggle to traverse the maze of the modern medical complex. For sick patients, navigating a building that has unclear or ambiguous signage leaves them feeling lost, scared and frustrated. Naturally, they turn to hospital staff for assistance; however, staff are already stretched to their limit in an environment where timeliness is critical to delivering quality care.

Moving with purpose

To improve the patient experience, hospitals have installed interactive wayfinding kiosks to supplement traditional signage. Typically positioned at a hospital entrance, kiosks enable patients to check-in for appointments on arrival; chart a route to their treatment destination and obtain an estimated walk time; and print and/or send directions to their mobile device.

However, as people have become more accustomed to the convenience of their mobile devices and apps, they expect the same level of accessibility in other industries to be extended to their treatment experience. This has prompted hospitals to develop mobile wayfinding apps that patients can download to their mobile devices, providing immediate access to appointment notifications and information, driving directions, remote check-in, turn-by-turn indoor navigation and continuous interaction throughout the continuum of care.

Aside from patient convenience, digital wayfinding has another key advantage over traditional wayfinding signage — data can be updated in real-time through the underlying wayfinding platform. System administrators have the ability to manage floor maps, wayfinding data and content directly, or to configure business rules that will automatically trigger changes based on events. For instance, if a section of the hospital is quarantined, the wayfinding application will avoid directing patients and visitors to that area.

The advances in interactive hospital wayfinding have been made possible through a combination of location-aware technologies — GPS (global positioning system), RFID (radio-frequency identification), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE (low energy) beacons — which are able to determine the geographical position of people or objects, and enterprise wayfinding software, which provides powerful mapping and third party integration capabilities.

For patients, this means a visit to the hospital begins with a notification to their mobile device confirming appointment details, providing estimated travel time and turn-by-turn navigation to the entrance nearest their appointment location. Upon entering the hospital, the patient can check-in using an integrated check-in kiosk. This triggers an event in the patient flow management system, seamlessly adding the patient to the registration queue and delivering estimated wait times directly to their mobile device.

Once registered, the app prompts the patient to follow indoor directions to their appointment location, taking into account accessibility preferences configured by the user. Throughout their visit, the patient is informed of appointment delays. In some cases, a video relevant to the patient’s specific condition can be streamed directly on their mobile device.

Improving hospital efficiencies

Advances in wayfinding technologies play an equally important role in helping hospital staff improve patient throughput and optimize clinical workflows. Because patients, staff and medical equipment are in a state of constant movement, healthcare workers waste a lot of time locating people and equipment.

Using wayfinding technologies in combination with positive patient identification and wireless healthcare asset management ensures that once a patient has been positively identified, all subsequent encounters and related workflows are tracked and become more efficient, thus improving patient safety, preventing infant abduction and patient wandering.

Meanwhile, healthcare assets tagged with locators or beacons can be quickly found in the event of an emergency. In the case that these assets are confined to a geo-fenced area, staff can be alerted when the machines are removed or disabled outside specific zones.

Because patients and visitors have very distinct needs from hospital staff, wayfinding technologies provide information-based roles. For instance, healthcare workers are able to see patient movement, equipment locations and find coworkers. Staff also have access to more direct routes through the hospital than those provided for patients.

This helps improve staff communication and enables better time management, saving money. Patients and visitors, on the other hand, have a distinct view of the hospital, one that enables them to reduce waiting times and increases the quality of their experience.

Patients with disabilities receive essential navigation tips that help them achieve their goals, and reduce the usual stress and anxiety associated with a visit to the hospital.

A new path to growth

With more options in healthcare providers, patients are treating this industry just like any other — fully informed and with high expectations of service delivery. Advances in wayfinding technologies are setting forward-thinking healthcare delivery organizations apart from their competitors.

By capturing a patient’s intent to navigate to the clinic and using information from various intelligent systems, an integrated wayfinding system can shape their journey, making it easier to fulfill their goal while, at the same time, saving the clinic significant time.

Although many healthcare units have tapped into the power of data collection through social, mobile, cloud and analytics technologies, they are not maximizing the power of that information because they lack the means to integrate it with their major information systems. This vital data can be used to its fullest potential by integrating collected patient data with clinician workflows and electronic health records in order to provide a great patient experience.

An efficient wayfinding system can correlate data from mobile, social and cloud technologies and integrate it with a hospital’s information system in order to create a personalized, seamless patient journey.

 

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Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Canadian Healthcare Facilities magazine.

Image credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg

Topic(s): Mapping
Author

Chris Wiegand

With a track record of success in both business growth and business transformation, Chris Wiegand has dedicated his career to discovering and creating business opportunities that address real-world needs. In 2009, Chris co-founded indoor mapping company Jibestream, and led its incredible growth from an idea to a globally recognized leader in the indoor mapping space. Chris joined the Inpixon team in 2019 with Inpixon’s acquisition of Jibestream, where he continues to be a leading voice in the indoor intelligence space, driving success for the company’s indoor intelligence solutions.

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