Hospitals easily compete with shopping malls and high-rise office buildings in size and number of people, yet hospitals are notoriously more difficult to navigate. With the sheer number of parking lots, entrances, separate and connected buildings, departments, restricted access areas, and individual offices, it can be a serious challenge for patients, guests, and even staff to find their way.
It’s easy to understand the inefficiencies of having people get lost – from raising levels of anxiety to the costs of missed appointments – but there are many other implications of a facility that’s difficult to navigate.
As digital wayfinding and signage improve and real-time wayfinding is being incorporated through wearables with haptic capability and other apps and hardware, we’ll continue to see improvements that will benefit guests, visitors and those who work at a hospital or healthcare campus.
Immersive and interactive media is one of these tools, and a powerful one at that. Below I discuss several opportunities for interactive media to support hospitals operations, patients and families.
When it comes to hospital efficiency, asset tracking is one of the biggest hurdles. Beds, equipment, wheelchairs — much of what’s in a hospital is designed to move, which can make asset tracking a serious challenge.
Launching an interactive map with built-in asset tracking — via RFID and beacons or other tech can give staff a hospital-wide view of assets. “Digital twinning” — terminology for the digital version of a physical object — is an approach being used in a host of other industries. With this asset tracking system, not only can staff find the location of items on a desktop or mobile device, but with an interactive map, they can find the fastest and efficient way to get to it and move it to the desired location.
On large campuses with city or private shuttles, transit tracking will provide staff and visitors a live view of where shuttles are, along with actual departure and arrival times for each stop.
Additionally, digital twins can provide data feeds to the map, such as the date and time of last maintenance and battery levels. The system also makes checking inventory much easier, as instead of spreadsheets, a staff member can look right into a digitised room and see what’s there in seconds.
Such a system can certainly improve efficiencies, but it can also improve patient care by making it easier for staff to locate critical items.
The all-important patient experience
The anxiety of a hospital visit is real and navigating a hospital building can add to the level of stress. Once an appointment is scheduled, a lot of this anxiety can be removed by sending the patient and their loved ones an interactive map and/or virtual tour that show the best parking area, entrance, and other areas of their visit.
These immersive experiences can be easily built with virtual tour software that integrates 360-degree images, to give a full experience that’s even VR-ready for those with the necessary hardware. Virtual tours are a powerful way to improve your web presence and provide greater peace of mind for patients, who can now “visit” a room or area before ever arriving on site.
Additionally, these tours can also highlight on-site wayfinding, such as colour-coded signs and other marking and signage to look for to help them get to their location.
On-site tools to locate amenities such as the gift shop, dining, wheelchair pick-up points and serene outdoor spaces will make patients feel more comfortable and cared for; the more comfortable visitors are, the better the overall service provided will be.
Staff support and training
Interactive maps help both newly hired staff orienting themselves and long-time staff helping guide someone else, and many hospitals find that their staff is among the most frequent map users.
Being able to navigate the hospital is vital for anyone who will be spending a reasonable amount of time in and between the buildings. Often, hospital staff will take half an hour or more to give new regulars a thorough tour but walking the halls and hearing an explanation only sticks for a few people. After the tour, most people will still be lost for their first few days and can sacrifice a lot of time asking other staff members how to get around.
Interactive maps with integrated virtual tours allow staff members to explore the entire facility as well as the best routes for their particular needs, even before coming to work. So, whether they are seasoned professionals or right out of med school, hospital staff members can plan ahead and eliminate one part of a busy day.
Additionally, interactive media can be used for training purposes, showing staff via desktop or mobile device how best to navigate the hospital/campus, find supply rooms, and cafeterias, among other training needs.
Energy and facility management
Once floor plans are built into the digital map, there are many additional data tracking tools that can be added to the system. Dynamic maps have the ability to show energy usage data, HVAC maps, construction, closures, routine maintenance loops, and additional facility information, all in one, highly visual hub of information.
With all energy usage and facilities data located in one space, managers can detect and diagnose issues more quickly and efficiently. And real-time video feeds can take them to a specific location, saving them a drive or walk. With data feeds linked into a location-aware system, a hospital can improve its operational costs and efficiencies. By plugging in the right data feeds, a digital map can become a smart-technology hub.
Managing facilities often involves communication to visitors and staff regarding campus happenings that might affect how they get around. This could be maintenance on a particular elevator for one day, or campus construction over several months. In any communication, links to map images that give context will increase efficiency in the messaging.
Safety and security
Hospitals can use maps to provide handicap-safe routes for visitors and patients, by altering the usual navigation services to always take elevators and ramps. Also, map administrators can actively update a map to block off and put warnings on hazardous areas. In that emergency situation, hospitals can have pre-planned routes attached to its map and anyone can have access to that emergency plan if they have a mobile phone.
Digital maps and virtual tours are more than just physical wayfinding tools. They can serve as strategic solutions that help hospitals meet internal goals for efficiency and customer and employee satisfaction. From no longer needing thousands of static maps to asset tracking to fewer missed appointments, dynamic, interactive maps have a significant role to play in the modern hospital.