We are in the age of the healthcare megaplex – huge, complicated interconnected spaces that can be daunting to navigate. 30% of first-time visitors to a hospital say they get lost. This adds to what is most likely an already stressful situation, giving visitors a negative impression of the facility and organization, and coloring perceptions about their treatment. A well-conceived and implemented hospital wayfinding system can create a better visitor experience, increase loyalty, and save your staff time and you money.
Before we look at ideas for good wayfinding, it might be useful to consider some elements of bad wayfinding:
- Placement – signs need to be in the right place, in clear view, before or at the point where the visitor has to make a decision (like “go left” or “go right”). Putting a sign after such a decision point, or in a place that’s not clear to see, causes confusion and frustration.
- Clustering – Too many signs in one place create the visual equivalent of noise, making it difficult for someone to sort out the one bit of information they need. The same goes for having lots of different types of signs all in one place – it’s hard to read and hard to get the necessary information.
- Maintenance – Poorly maintained signs look shoddy and make people feel like the information might be out of date. At the very least, it sends a message that no one cares enough to keep things looking good.
- User Types – Wayfinding isn’t necessarily one-scheme-fits-all. Different people will look for different things. People with children, or in wheelchairs, will have different priorities when entering a healthcare facility, and patients and visitors will also have different needs.
These problems can all be solved with good digital wayfinding. Mounted displays showing timely messages placed at optimal heights and angles let people see them as they go past. Interactive touchscreens and kiosks can be placed at entry and gathering points, and need to meet ADA requirements.
All your hospital’s digital signs should have a unified design scheme, so there’s no confusion. Mounted screens can have wayfinding messages in rotation, so even though you might have several things to show, they are only up one at a time. Unlike static wayfinding placards, you can update messages easily, and if information changes, you don’t need to pay to have a new sign made.
Using interactive touchscreens and kiosks puts the power in the hand of your visitors – they can sift through a large amount of information quickly to find exactly what they need. And different types of users can use your interactive system in any way that suits them.
Then there’s wear and tear on your staff. Someone trying to get somewhere for an appointment or to visit a patient will ask anyone they see for directions. And sometimes the person being asked doesn’t know where the visitor is trying to get to, so another person gets stopped. On average, it takes three minutes to give directions, and doctors are stopped twice a day for directions. That’s six minutes a day per doctor. In a facility with 100 doctors, that’s 10 man hours each day spent doing something a good wayfinding system can do. That works out to an average of $768 a day per hospital, or $280,000 a year. These figures don’t include other staff – just doctors. It’s estimated that around 2.5% of each shift is spent giving directions. That can add up to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars.
For a fraction of that, you can implement a comprehensive, flexible and scalable digital wayfinding solution. Integrating with mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, can save even more time and money – turn-by-turn directions are sent right to someone’s phone using a downloadable app.
Good hospital wayfinding increases visitor satisfaction and staff productivity. This saves you a considerable amount of money over time, so a good wayfinding system essentially pays for itself.