The typical NHS hospital will have about 5,000 staff members. Many of these people will work in a set space and know their close surroundings very well. However, few of them will know the entire hospital and grounds. While some permanent doctors will come to know the area fairly well, there are many junior staff members and those from other hospitals or schools who will never know more than a few halls. And that’s just the staff.
Patients in a hospital are even more likely to have issues with navigation, and that’s costing hospitals money. In the case of Emory University’s now famous self-study, poor wayfinding solutions and lost patients were costing Emory University Hospital $220,000 annually.
The last time you had a planned appointment in a hospital, did you receive a reminder the day before? This is rather common practice in order to make sure patients come in on time and ready. Hospital visits are expensive—not just for the patient but for the hospital. The seemingly small cost associated with a single missed appointment quickly adds up, easily costing a hospital hundreds to thousands of dollars.
“Data from 2013 suggests that around 6.9m outpatient hospital appointments, each costing an average of £108, are missed each year in the UK.”
When you visit any given hospital, there are likely to be several ways to navigate and find your destination. Most common, and the first line of defense against confused patients and staff, are physical signs. However, beyond that, solutions can vary wildly. Many hospitals will have maps online for patients to view and even print before visiting. Others will have standing maps, digital maps, help desks, and apps.
Most likely, your local hospital will have numerous wayfinding methods available to help patients, visitors, and even staff. However, almost all of the above, traditional methods of indoor navigation in hospitals relies on a static map or, at best, in-person direction. There are few solutions offering real-time or turn-by-turn directions. While GPS can help a patient locate the correct building, it won’t help anyone find a specific hall or office.
How much is a hospital staff member’s time worth? Emory University also wanted to know how much time staff members spent assisting in wayfinding—i.e. offering directions. They found staff members—including doctors and nurses—would spend over 4,500 hours per year giving directions to visitors. That’s two full-time positions worth of just giving directions. And The Magazine reported on an overhaul at the Children’s Hospital of Boston that installed 15,000 new signs on their premises.
The importance of hospital signage is no joke. Each year, hospitals will be updating or revamping old signs across huge buildings with numerous wings. It's unlikely physical signage will be done away with in hospitals any time soon. However, moving as much as possible to the digital can decrease reliance on and the costs of signage. Digital maps are easy to change and instantly updated. They can also include far more information than physical signs. That can include numerous languages, descriptions, or other directions that simply can't fit on a wall.
There’s no doubt that hospital wayfinding will continue to be complex and require many different solutions to appeal to all users. Though elderly patients being less likely turn to a smart phone, visitors and patients are increasingly technology-oriented. That’s one reason many providers are turning to new technological solutions to solve the same age-old problems while saving time and money.
Bluetooth beacons are increasingly common in hospital settings, and one of their most common use cases in the vertical is indoor navigation. Beacons add one special ingredient to any hospital app: proximity data. Rather than simply offering a one-size-fits-all map of the entire campus, proximity data can support active, real-time navigation. Now, that user need only follow step-by-step directions to find an office or other point-of-interest.
The results of beacon-powered healthcare wayfinding is much more nuanced than simply providing a better experience. Beacons are by nature very simple tools that are relatively easy to install and integrate into an app.
When handled carefully, beacons can provide numerous benefits:
Beacons are already integrated in hospitals around the world, and the infographic above shows only a few of the locations in which you can find them. Here's just a few of the place you can find Kontakt.io beacons being used for healthcare wayfinding right now.
You’ve opened up your healthcare app. What happens next? For hospital navigation, apps usually offer many of the same options and experiences. In general, it operates much like Google Maps. Input your goal and just press go. The app should automatically find and show your position within the hospital. Then, it can find the fast way to your destination and show the route. It will even update as you travel, showing pictures of your starting point or a point-of-interest, and giving you turn-by-turn directions to make sure you don’t get lost. Should you take the wrong turn, another beacon will provide the data needed for the app to immediately recognize the mistake and update the directions.
Learn more about indoor navigation with Bluetooth beacons. Click here to download a free white paper.
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