In a recent survey of healthcare executives, 40% said digital wayfinding is on their wish list of mobile offerings for patients. As we come out of the fall healthcare conference season, we certainly heard people saying this as we talked with them about their larger digital strategy and more specific mobile plans.
Some of the things people had to say, included, one vendor representative saying that he wished his health system had indoor wayfinding because he gets lost every time he goes. In a later conversation with that very system, team members said that was very true and that navigating their facilities was a big challenge. In another conversation with a provider, we heard that his system had been adding on new "wings" and buying smaller facilities. Providers were sent to staff new towers or buildings and found they had no way to find their way around. He said he is often running behind schedule when this happens.
Beyond conversations about patients and staff getting lost, many people said their staffing and volunteer levels are down, and they've realized that they simply can't staff at a level that allows people to spend time directing or walking patients to their destination. Most said they didn't think it was likely they would get back to previous staff or volunteer levels. One person said they used to tell all the staff to always stop and ask patients if they need help and then direct or take patients to their appointments. They didn't want to make it a digital experience. They felt that patients appreciated the personal touch. However, post-pandemic patients feel differently. They would prefer touchless options, and the organization is now looking to add indoor wayfinding to create the experience patients want and remove unnecessary burden from staff.
A great example of this challenge is University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC). With a campus that is 2.5M square feet, the sheer size made it challenging to navigate, and patients and visitors were often lost, even with volunteers stationed through the facility. With the addition of the UTMC Way mobile app that includes navigation from home to parking to the point of care, patients and staff are finding it much easier to find their way. It's been so successful that 61% of users have used the app three or more times since downloading it.
"As the region's academic medical center, innovation is one of our six values. We strive to provide the best healthcare experience possible for our patients. Through the use of the UTMC Way app, patients and their families can now navigate our campus using the latest wayfinding technology right on their phones. This allows patients to pinpoint exactly where they’ve parked and navigate to their appointment and safely back to their car, all while using turn-by-turn directions.” Michael Saad, CIO at UTMC
As other healthcare organizations look to add digital wayfinding in the coming 12-24 months, here are five important things to consider:
Turnkey technology. Select a partner that delivers navigation technology hardware and software and is not dependent on other vendor solutions. Make sure your partner develops, installs and maintains your mobile wayfinding platform. This lifts a huge burden from your IT staff and supports your team with a platform that remains accurate and dynamic to your organization’s long-term needs.
Wayfinding accuracy. Make sure the technology you choose has the ability to accurately locate a patient indoors. Many wayfinding solutions require a patient to tell them where they are in the hospital before it can take them to their destination. This frustrates patients because they are often lost and have no idea where they are. Other solutions will admit they are only 70% accurate. In a large facility that leaves a lot of room for error.
Flexible for any patient journey.Understand how your hospital space is designed to get people in the door and to their destination.Mobile wayfinding can accurately guide your patients with step-by-step directions, but many patient journeys are unique. Does a patient need to stop at registration before getting an MRI? It is important to conduct facility walkthroughs and consult with your staff on wayfinding challenges to best direct each patient to their destination.
Just the beginning. A mobile wayfinding app can be the gateway to your larger mobile platform, which ideally is a solution that brings all your digital patient facing tools into one mobile experience. Selecting a wayfinding platform with agile development allows you to seamlessly integrate other technology solutions into one location. You save your patients’ time and decrease confusion when they only need to download one app with access to multiple functions.
Content Management. A mobile app that understands where you are is very dynamic by nature. You want to make sure that your content manager is too. It should provide a single point for managing all the places and things in your app. Your content strategy should allow you to easily integrate with existing databases and feeds, things that are dynamic, like wait-times, and data that is stored somewhere else like physicians. This reduces, and in most cases, completely eliminates duplication of effort in terms of data maintenance and provides users the dynamic ‘live’ experience they expect.
While these five things are important, there is certainly more to consider when looking at experiential wayfinding for a health system. See more suggestions in this short guide.