EPISODE 85 | Guest: Steve Lainer, region sales manager – Northeast for Visix
Healthcare facilities need to communicate everything from entertainment for waiting rooms to critical care notices at nurses’ stations. Digital signs for hospitals have become the leading solution to engage and inform everyone on site, and to broadcast the most current information as things change quickly.
In this episode, Steve Lainer walks us through how hospitals are using digital signs for critical communications with visitors, staff and patients. He’ll also explain how screens are reducing the burden on staff while simultaneously improving the visitor and patient experience.
- Learn how digital signs contribute to hospital safety, wellness and workflows
- Discover how wayfinding, CAP alerts and room signs can extend the impact of digital signs
- Hear how donor boards, menu boards and queuing info can better engage hospital visitors
- Understand how digital signage can help alleviate healthcare staff burnout
- Explore the cost and time savings of digital signs versus outdated posters and plaques
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Derek DeWitt: Obviously, digital signage can be used in multiple types of organizations and facilities. One that’s very much on many people’s minds these days is, of course, healthcare – healthcare, hospitals, medical clinics, and so on and so forth. These have always been unique environments for communicating with a varied audience, ranging from patients and visitors to staff and others. And today, many of these institutions are trying to find even new and improved ways to communicate what they need to communicate in a timely, up-to-date fashion. To talk about that with me today, I have Steve Lainer, the region manager for the Northeast for Visix, Inc. Hi Steve, how are you?
Steve Lainer: Hey Derek. I’m doing very well. Thanks for having me on today.
Derek DeWitt: Thank you for coming on and thank you everybody out there for listening. I will remind you as I have so often in the past that you can subscribe to this podcast.
So obviously I think healthcare is on people’s minds a lot. A lot of us have ended up going to some kind of healthcare facility or another probably more than we have in the past. I myself, I never go to the doctor, but lately, you know, I’ve had to go a few times to get tested and things like this. So we’re all kind of in this environment more. And I think that a lot of these healthcare institutions are, as I said at the top, trying to find new ways to communicate information, ’cause it’s even more important with a changing landscape that people get really accurate information the moment it’s available.
Steve Lainer: Absolutely Derek. What I have found is that delivering accurate and up-to-date information, specifically for visitors who are now going to the facility with COVID rules may be changing on a weekly basis, you know, how and where they should be within the facility. Should they be masked? Should they be vaccinated?
Also, for patients coming in, whether they have COVID or COVID-related issues or they’re there for elective surgeries, it can certainly be quite a burden to figure out where to go and what new rules or protocols are in place. So, the digital signs that are in place now have been very, very helpful. And those institutions that don’t have them have been adding them quite quickly to help direct traffic and give the information that’s needed to alleviate a lot of pressure on their staff.
Derek DeWitt: And of course, a lot of these places, obviously a small medical clinic is just gonna have, you know, one or two digital signs whereas a large hospital is gonna have lots and lots of different ones and lots of different kinds of information that they need to put out there. What are the most common sort of visitor-forward messaging that you see?
Steve Lainer: For visitors, especially in waiting areas where they’re obviously waiting for a loved one or a friend to come out from the doctor, the information that’s typically given would be regarding hours, where the gift shop is, where the cafeteria is, other types of general information regarding things that are happening now.
Again, if there are COVID protocols in place, such as masking, etc. Where to go, what to do, what to expect. And then maybe some health tips, you know, just as general PSAs to the public so that visitors can certainly experience those. And in more high traffic areas, certainly directions of where to go or, you know, how to get there from A to B regarding between buildings, etc. Some of the older hospitals can be quite convoluted, so the digital signs certainly help in navigating their way through.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s for sure. Some of those hospitals, they get, you know, oh, we’ve added a new wing and it’s just chaotic to try and maneuver that space. So obviously wayfinding is one of, I think, the key things that’s required for a facility like this.
Steve Lainer: Yeah, absolutely. When you come into the main lobby, typically many institutions will employ wayfinding, which is simply walking up to the screen, looking for a destination. It could be, hey, the radiology department, the oncology, maternity, wherever you’re looking for. And then directions from point A to B from where you’re standing and how to get there. And the directions can even entail, you know, going up to the second floor, walking this way, that way. Line paths or other directions can help assist the visitor to get there.
And secondarily, looking for a specific physician. Where is that doctor located? Are they in another building? Are you in the correct spot? And again, how to reach that person. So, wayfinding has become extremely helpful. It can even be done in multiple languages, which for high traffic hospitals, especially in the city and urban settings, can be very useful. So, they’re not again bothering staff. So, you can have multiple languages, you could add Spanish, Russian, French, whatever makes sense for the primary crowd that’s coming into your facilities.
Derek DeWitt: To me, that’s always been one of the primary ideas, I think, behind digital signage in a hospital or healthcare facility of some sort is, you know, it’s already stressful enough. If I’m going there, I’m not going there for fun. You know, it’s either me or somebody I know. There’s maybe a bit of psychological in addition to physical stress. So, anything that they can do to help make things easier, like you said, with multiple languages, it just seems like kind of a no brainer.
Steve Lainer: Absolutely. Yeah. Taking the pressure off the staff is really kind of where wayfinding helps tremendously. ‘Cause in fact, I’ve actually seen in person where the staff will point a particular person who’s looking for something over to the wayfinder. Because frankly, the wayfinder in some cases will be better suited and/or the staff person does not speak that language or they’re simply just overwhelmed at the time to stop and give directions to every single person.
Derek DeWitt: Do you find a lot of these facilities they use interactive screens for their wayfinding, or do they enable people to scan a QR code or what, or some other way of kind of getting the directions and the map onto their mobile device?
Steve Lainer: They do. So yeah, all the wayfinders are interactive. So that way when the person that’s walking up can touch, as we spoke about, possibly start with the language and then find either the physician, the department, etc.
We at Visix happen to offer something, and I’m sure others could, where you can actually have the final directions that you’ve come up with texted to your phone. So, you can get an SMS message with exactly what you left on the screen with, so that when you start your journey up the elevator and around all those left and rights that we talked about earlier. If you get lost or you start having a conversation with somebody in midstream, you can pick up where you left off and get to your end destination ’cause it will reside on your phone. And then when you don’t need those directions any longer, you simply delete the text.
Derek DeWitt: And since you can also get wayfinding directions for a specific doctor, let’s say, or a specific department, these also must very easily integrate with directories.
Steve Lainer: Yes, absolutely. They will interface with directories. That makes it real easy for the hospital staff. Because if a physician either leaves the facility or joins, or even just changes office space, they can simply update a spreadsheet. And for us, we can actually just read the spreadsheet, say on a daily basis or even more often if needed, and make those changes. So, if a physician changes from, you know, they’re in 215 and they change to 427A or something, we will have that change and the directions will now go to the correct spot.
Derek DeWitt: You’re updating the information someplace anyway. So why not tie it to your digital signage?
Steve Lainer: Absolutely, sure. We can up schedules and spreadsheets. So, wherever that information lies, whether you’re showing a schedule for daily events, or if you’re showing destinations for physicians or other important areas of the facility, those can be done simply on a spreadsheet.
Derek DeWitt: Now it’s not just visitors and patients that are using digital signage though. Especially again, you know, patient census goes up, (which means the number of patients in a facility at a particular time), so things are always changing for staff as well. Do you find a lot of like nurses’ stations or physicians’ lounges or whatever also using digital signage. And if so, how are they using it differently?
Steve Lainer: Yes, the nurses’ stations and physicians’ lounges are definitely areas of need, particularly the nurses’ stations. They not only get information at the station through digital signage that is pertinent to their own internal messaging such as their own HR messages, but different directives regarding patients, how to handle visitors, what’s happening in the facility, what they should be aware of, anything that has to do with their management of that particular floor.
Derek DeWitt: Sure. So it’s, it’s there, it’s there to support them and make their jobs easier.
Steve Lainer: A hundred percent. Yeah. So, a lot of facilities come up with different directives so often, especially with the COVID crisis that the directives had been changing almost on a, you know, sometimes daily or weekly basis. So, this would allow the nurses at the stations to easily check up and see what today’s directives or weekly directives are. And in general, when it’s a non-pandemic, they are certainly very useful as well regarding just general health safety rules.
Derek DeWitt: Now, of course, like you said, the patients, they go in, they see the doctor and everybody’s kind of waiting around and they’re, you know, trying to kill time basically. Sometimes they’ll stick up wellness reminders or, hey, did you know that we have, like you said, a gift shop or even a place you can go get something to eat or a cup of coffee here on premises. Do you find the places that have, like, not just vending machines, but an actual place where you can get hot food or sandwiches and sit down, do they utilize the menu board concept at all?
Steve Lainer: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s another area where we can be of quite a bit of use with digital signage is creating the menu boards for the cafeteria settings. Most of the hospitals will have multiple stations. They may have a grill, they may have a sandwich area, a healthy foods area, you know, a salad bar type thing. And each one of those typically requires its own menu board with pricing. And again, those can be updated very easily through spreadsheet. Language, which again, if you have a food item that changed, the soup of the day, the pricing, that can all be changed through a spreadsheet.
Other information can be driven to that menu board. If you want to kind of partition, it a little bit, giving healthy choices, giving information regarding smart eats and, you know, ways to show the calorie count and other things that are important to folks that are especially, that may be visiting the hospital for specific health-related needs regarding, you know, what they should be intaking or not.
Derek DeWitt: Somewhat related to that, this idea of using some sort of digital sign tied in with data integration to show queue times or wait times for the doctor and things like this. Which, you know, study after study has shown it doesn’t actually affect how long people wait, but because they have a reference, it makes it feel like they’re not waiting as long.
Steve Lainer: Yeah. Actually, we here at Visix have done a couple of projects for different departments in certain hospital facilities that would allow the receptionist to actually go in again to a spreadsheet-type format and put in, you know, right now the current wait time for Dr. Jones is 20 minutes and Dr. Smith is 30 minutes. And that will go up on a board fairly immediately into the waiting area where patients or visitors have already checked in to get an idea of how far behind they might be running. And the best thing you can ever see on one of those boards is two words that say, “on time”.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah, much like much like when you’re at the airport.
Steve Lainer: Right.
Derek DeWitt: I know a lot of places like this get at least part of their funding from donors. Do you see a lot of donor boards being used using digital signage technology as well? Or is that just kind of only for the bigger boys?
Steve Lainer: No, absolutely. Digital signage has done quite a bit with donor boards. In fact, it’s a much more economical way to do it. We have designed and I’ve seen them as well, to look just like plaques. I mean, just like a marble plaque. You know, it’s an actual touchscreen and they have different plaques for different levels, platinum, you know, gold, silver, bronze, whatever kind of giving level you’re in or, you know, however they decide to categorize those. And when you touch that, you will see all the different donors.
And then if the donor wants to, you can touch it again and go deeper and actually see a biography on that person or persons, if it’s say a husband and wife or a family that had given, and maybe what their backstory is. You know, why they gave. Maybe a loved one was treated there and, you know, the hospital certainly did a very good job with that person.
So again, a digital donor board is a lot more effective ’cause it can be updated and changed. And you can add an infinite number of donors compared to say a particular wall where, you know, it may take months to get one little plaque put up, you know, and there’s really no detail there. So, it’s become a very popular way to schedule donor boards and allow people to see, you know, their name in lights, so to speak.
Derek DeWitt: Sure. And way fewer holes in the wall.
Steve Lainer: Absolutely.
Derek DeWitt: Now obviously, if you’re going to a hospital it’s ’cause something has gone wrong, or you are worried that something could go wrong. And yet, outside the medical realm things happen. You know, there’s a flood, there’s a fire, there’s an earthquake. I would imagine that a lot of hospitals especially, but again even a medical clinic, would have an alert notification system tied in, especially I would think for organizations like this, tied into CAP alerts.
Steve Lainer: Similar, as you say, to other institutions, maybe like a higher education facility, hospitals are really reliant on alerts. At least at Visix, we do have a CAP alert trigger. And our system can take that trigger and put the screens into an alert mode, which would then give details regarding whatever it may be, as you outlined. If it’s, you know, a tragic event like an earthquake or a flood or a fire, it would give immediate directions on what actions to take, where to go, you know, how to proceed out the doors. So certainly, that’s something that you never want to have actually happen in real life, but we do offer the ability for the hospitals to tie in and use the screens as another redundant layer of safety protection.
Derek DeWitt: What about events? I know you don’t think of a hospital as a place of like, hey, we’re going to a conference. But they do. Some of the larger places do have conferences and get togethers with doctors. Some even will have medical professionals addressing the public on topics of interest. Do you also find hospitals and healthcare facilities using event schedules and maybe even like meeting room signs for bigger places?
Steve Lainer: You know, specifically, as you say, for institutions that do have meetings and do have gatherings, conferences, we can use the signs to pull in their event schedules. Not only that, if they have created some type of a digital poster board that advertises say a keynote speaker or something of that sort that can be shown. And that can be shown on the screen for as long as they want it to, you know, during that whole process of the conference.
And then in the individual, either conference rooms or breakout rooms, we can, and we have put the smaller room signs next to the door that not only show the schedule of who’s speaking and what’s happening in that particular room, but also it can show information. It can show pictures again of a keynote speaker and have other branding for the hospital on there. So it’s kind of, they work in conjunction the digital signs and the room signs to not only show people what’s happening, but then yes, you’re in the right spot. Please open the door and come in.
Derek DeWitt: And obviously like today we have a lot of rooms, let’s say a meeting room, it used to hold 20. But you know, hey, we’re doing social distancing, and so you can update that information on these, on these meeting room signs of like, actually this one it’s 12 people right now and things like that.
Steve Lainer: A hundred percent. Yeah. Certainly during, you know, the pandemic and you know, still in most of the medical facilities, they are going to use the social distancing rules. Although things seem to be winding down a little bit, but you’re right. Yeah. A room that used to hold say 40 may only be able to hold 12 because of social distancing and that’s just fine. And yes, the signs can be updated to show that this particular room only has the occupancy of X at this particular moment.
Derek DeWitt: Now, you told me about something interesting you’ve seen some clients doing lately, which is kind of almost like these little mobile kiosks with digital signs on them. Tell me about these, these carts.
Steve Lainer: Yeah. Something exciting that I’ve seen in multiple facilities, specifically in reaction to the pandemic, but I think will become a permanent part of their ecosystem as far as signage, is putting a monitor on a rolling cart, just like, I guess, we used to see, you know, when we were in school and they’d roll in a screen for us to watch a movie. But in this particular case, you would connect it to a media player, a digital media player, and that would have information cached in it and it could also receive updates via wifi. Those carts are then wheeled into position in high traffic areas typically.
What they are doing is giving up-to-date information for patients and visitors regarding say, COVID. If you think you have COVID, this is where we want you to go right now, we’re not taking any visitors at all, you know, or, you know, you must be masked or vaccinated or whatever their particular protocols are. They can have those in high traffic areas so that when folks enter the facility, they’ll have a lot of information that they might have not known. And again, those carts can also be put just in other general areas, say they’re having just another event as we pointed out in the last section. That could be rolled over to an area where they’re having an event or a conference. Where they don’t typically need a permanent sign, it could be used as a temporary sign. There’s been a demand for that as of recent.
Derek DeWitt: Sure. And it kinda again reminds me with this kind of, really like, I’m gonna call it the M.A.S.H unit of communications, this ability to kind of like, boom, you know what? We have a lot of information that we want to put out there. We don’t wanna just stick it all in a playlist and hope that people, you know, hang around long enough to see it rotate through. This stuff really needs to be, you know, front and center and the ability to do this. And it also, something you said earlier, it really does mean that people are a bit more self-reliant, which I think reduces their stress. And it also takes the burden off of staff having to answer the same question again and again and again, which is tiring for them. And it allows the staff to be able to deal with people’s issues on a much more individualized basis,
Steve Lainer: A hundred percent. Yeah. The digital signage has definitely taken a lot of stress off the staff and that’s, you know, not only important, but, you know, from a burnout perspective from, you know, as you say, answering the same questions over and over, they can really rely on those monitors, wayfinding or other, to help ease the stress so they can get back to their day-to-day tasks. Not that they wouldn’t want to help somebody, it’s just that sometimes they’re overwhelmed with other working items. So that’s very important within a hospital or healthcare facility.
There are a lot of different areas for digital signage. And we hadn’t touched upon it, but another one is patient rooms. We can also put information onto say a particular channel for, you know, if you’re in the maternity ward, you turn to, say channel 11 and you’ll get videos. And, you know, for expectant and new mothers regarding, you know, obviously what to expect and, you know, your care of your child and obviously, you know, what to expect regarding checkout, etc. So, you know, whatever they need in the healthcare and hospital facility regarding giving information, we can be of help to them.
Derek DeWitt: Yeah. That’s interesting that of course in the patient rooms, that makes total sense. I mean, it is kind of, it reminds me kind of, of what you get nowadays in most hotel rooms.
Steve Lainer: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s another area that we’ve done it and that’s why we have the experience at it. You know, when you go into a hotel and you turn on the TV, you know, you get that hotel channel that really is just a series of events and, you know, talking about their restaurants and everything that’s going on within that facility, you know, and how to book maybe reservations. And, you know, that’s the same type of content that’s being driven by like a Visix media player, which could be driven to a hospital room or other, you know, screens within any facility.
Derek DeWitt: I also would think that, like, I know that the Visix software is actually pretty easy to use. And I think there are a lot of other digital signage platforms out there that are, that are actually fairly simple to use. And I would think that would be a major selling point for an institution like this, ’cause they’ve got so much going on, or they could potentially at any minute. Oh gosh, there was a disaster downtown and now suddenly we’re flooded with patients and visitors and press and all this stuff. So having a really easy to use system, I think would be a major, major factor in deciding which company to go with for a facility like this.
Steve Lainer: Yeah. We’re, we’re very well known for our ease of use. You know, just only a couple of clicks, drag and drop to get content loaded, then very simply choose your schedule. When do you want this to play? Whether it’s a still file, you know, a JPEG picture or a video. When do you want it to play? Through what date range? And you’re, you’re done. You can get in and out in 30, 40 seconds if you’re fast, maybe about 50 seconds to a minute if you’re slow. But it’s a very, very easy to use system.
And again, it’s permission based. So, the hospital executives will decide, the administrators, you know, who’s going to be able to use this. And, you know, typically the head of each department will be given a credential and then they can add users as they see fit regarding what personnel should be able to log in and make changes. We also have the ability to allow them to check a message before it goes live. So, there’s what’s called an approved mechanism. Not used that much within the hospital environment, but it is there in case somebody does want to check work before it goes live.
Derek DeWitt: Do you find a lot of places are using like templates, that they have multiple content creators? Or do they have a tendency to say, actually, you know what, it’s, you two, this is your job.
Steve Lainer: Yeah. Usually, it’s spread out quite a bit and we do find that they are using templates and the templates can be for general messaging. They could be internal, such as the nurses’ stations, the physicians’ lounges. To maybe recognize employees – so-and-so’s been here 10 years, happy anniversary. Or it’s their birthday. Because certainly they still wanna celebrate those things internally so that’s very important. And all those uses are, you know, just really, really tied into, you know, the general ease of use of the system. Whereas you can just add something to a predetermined template and post it.
Derek DeWitt: I really never go to any kind of healthcare facility or seldom, but like what did they use before? Were they, were they really like sticking stuff up on paper and taping it to the wall?
Steve Lainer: For schedules, yeah. I mean, as far as walking in, you would just talk to the first person you saw. And, you know, as far as visitors, they watched, you know, Maury Povich or, you know, whatever they had tuned in on the TV. They didn’t really use, or think of using that as a messaging device. They would just tune it to a channel and, you know, let folks watch whatever was on. So there really wasn’t any information given, you know, wait times any of that.
I mean, you can still find facilities that, you know, if you wanna say that they’re not, you know, kind of in the modern era, you know, that are, are still doing that where you have to, you know, check with a person for every single little thing. Yeah, they do that, and they wonder why their staff is overwhelmed. So certainly, the more in-tune facilities have gone ahead and put up some digital signage.
Derek DeWitt: So there you have it. Digital signage in a healthcare context or healthcare environment is there to make sure that everybody has all the information that they need as soon as it’s available. And it reduces stress for visitors, for patients, and even for staff through a variety of messaging types, scheduling options and wayfinding and more and more and more. Well, I’d like to thank my guest, Steve Lainer, region manager for the Northeast territory in the United States for Visix. Thanks for talking to me today.
Steve Lainer: No, I just wanna thank you for having me on, and I’m glad we had this opportunity to chat about hospitals and healthcare today.
Derek DeWitt: All right. And once again, thank you everybody out there for listening.