Medical facilities are not a destination of choice for most people, but they do have an ever increasing choice of which facility they use for their medical care. While retailers spend millions to make their facilities easy to use and a warm inviting place, too often a visit to a medical facility is more stressful than needed. The cardinal rule should be “improving our clients experience benefits everyone.”
At its core, wayfinding involves self-navigating in an unfamiliar physical environment such as a complex medical facility. Combine this with low reading levels, lofty medical terminology, an endless supply of initials and a maze like environment and it's no wonder why clients (patients and visitors) get lost, frustrated and end up with seemingly endless long walks.
In our modern society, our lives are made easier by the use of ever evolving digital technology. We watch television on High Definition LCD/Plasma monitors, information about any subject in the world is available by a few keystrokes on our computers and the Internet, and the majority of the restaurants that we eat at utilize touch-screen technology to ensure that we get the correct order and check at the end of the meal. But, when you go to a majority of hospitals, how do we find our way around? Many utilize the same static sign systems that have been in place for decades.
Facilities have long known that effective wayfinding improves customer satisfaction scores and project a stronger positive image to visitors and even to potential staff. The perception of order and a progressive environment becomes reality in their minds.
A number of electronic elements can be incorporated into wayfinding systems, some examples include:
* GPS units: Printed maps, online map services, global positioning satellites and websites affect how various service areas are accessed by patients and visitors. Experimentation has even been done with hand-held modules tied to ceiling concealed modules for interior use and pre-programmed to various destinations along predetermined routes. Audio units that have been used in museums and other displays to provide information about exhibits can be utilized to guide vision-impaired patients and visitors through the facility.
* Touch screen units: Most commonly used for directories, some touch screen units link to websites, provide physician referral and can be set up with printers. They can be used to convey donor information, physician referral programs, maps and even provide virtual guided tour directions along predetermined routes to specific destinations.
Available options include keyboards, custom screen savers, logos, maps, multilingual, audio, custom floor plans, maps and printers. They are housed in desks, walls or as freestanding kiosks. Units can be linked and remote updated via the hospital's network or flash drives, and utilize hardware and software that most IT departments are quite familiar with. Sorting of listings can accessed by name, firm name, specialty, department/area or suite number — users do not even have to know completely all the data nor spell it accurately either.
* Light Emitting Diode displays: The most common use of LED technology is exterior site identification signs. These signs can be as simple as a time/temp display standard in red or amber, and can be upgraded to full color at a minimal additional expense. Small and large facilities benefit from a platform to reach the thousands of passer bys daily.