Help­ing pa­tients find their way around large hos­pi­tal cam­puses

Modern Healthcare - - BEST PRACTICES - By Meeri Kim Meeri Kim is a free­lance writer based in Los An­ge­les.

UAB Medicine, one of the na­tion’s largest aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ters, lies within the larger cam­pus of the Univer­sity of Alabama. The mega-com­plex sits on 100 city blocks in down­town Birm­ing­ham.

A place that big can dis­ori­ent first­time pa­tients and vis­i­tors, who may al­ready be un­der sig­nif­i­cant stress. But even re­peat or reg­u­lar pa­tients can run into is­sues, es­pe­cially since med­i­cal cam­puses tend to grow over time.

Nav­i­gat­ing of­ten-mas­sive hos­pi­tals has a name: wayfind­ing. And wayfind­ing is a big prob­lem for the healthcare in­dus­try, said Bar­bara Hue­lat, de­sign prin­ci­pal at ar­chi­tec­ture firm Hue­lat Davis. “Peo­ple don’t al­ways know where Point B or even A is.”

At UAB Medicine, Se­nior As­so­ci­ate Vice Pres­i­dent Jor­dan DeMoss wanted to fix that. So the cen­ter en­listed a num­ber of tools—mo­bile apps, touch­screen kiosks and dig­i­tal sig­nage.

“The main goal is to re­duce the anx­i­ety and stress on peo­ple when they get here in or­der to pro­vide a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies,” DeMoss said.

Lost pa­tients are un­happy pa­tients

and that can af­fect a sys­tem’s rep­u­ta­tion and bot­tom line. Un­happy pa­tients of­ten vent their frus­tra­tions pub­licly through sur­veys, re­views or word of mouth, lead­ing to fewer ap­point­ments. But lost pa­tients in and of them­selves can mean lost rev­enue. A cost-es­ti­mate anal­y­sis of Emory Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal in At­lanta found the in­sti­tu­tion lost $200,000 ev­ery year be­cause of missed and late ap­point­ments. Hos­pi­tal staff mem­bers re­main idle while wait­ing for late pa­tients, who back up the sched­ule and cre­ate costly in­ef­fi­cien­cies.

For help, UAB turned to New York City-based Con­nex­ient for its prod­uct MediNav, which fea­tures turn-by-turn mo­bile in­door nav­i­ga­tion that uses a blue dot to in­di­cate the user’s po­si­tion, whether on a mo­bile de­vice, web or kiosk. Vis­i­tors can search for a doc­tor’s of­fice, depart­ment or other point of in­ter­est from the soft­ware’s front page, and MediNav is de­signed to pro­vide door-to-door direc­tions—from their home, to the cor­rect park­ing struc­ture and then to the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

The sys­tem al­lows hos­pi­tals to track pa­tient and vis­i­tor flow. An­a­lyt­i­cal soft­ware al­lows hos­pi­tal man­agers to mon­i­tor pa­tient vis­its and av­er­age time spent at each lo­ca­tion, so they can plan ac­cord­ingly.

It took the com­pany three years to achieve true blue-dot in­door nav­i­ga­tion. The grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Blue­tooth low-en­ergy bea­cons—hard­ware trans­mit­ters that can broad­cast data to nearby mo­bile de­vices—spurred the de­vel­op­ment of MediNav. The bea­cons, which are in­ex­pen­sive to in­stall, sup­port both An­droid and iPhone de­vices and al­low for re­li­able lo­ca­tion ac­cu­racy in in­door en­vi­ron­ments.

In its first year pro­mot­ing blue-dot nav­i­ga­tion, Con­nex­ient started with eight clients and has since ex­panded to 24 healthcare in­sti­tu­tions, most re­cently Hous­ton-based Memo­rial Her­mann Health Sys­tem.

Last Oc­to­ber, UAB de­ployed MediNav across its cam­pus. DeMoss said that he and his col­leagues were es­pe­cially happy that it al­lows for print­ing of cus­tom­ized maps. “What we had was a pa­per map that staff mem­bers used to high­light a route from one build­ing to the next,” said Adri­enne Steading, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and dig­i­tal strat­egy at UAB Medicine. With MediNav, “a cus­tom­ized map that high­lights the route to one spe­cific clinic in a build­ing can be printed, texted to a phone or viewed on the web.”

For the first phase of im­ple­men­ta­tion, pa­per maps re­mained an es­sen­tial part of UAB’s wayfind­ing sys­tem to ac­com­mo­date its di­verse range of vis­i­tors. The new wayfind­ing sys­tem with the nav­i­ga­tion app and up­dated pa­per maps will be fully op­er­a­tional this fall.

A ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle ap­peared on Mod­ern Healthcare’s Trans­for­ma­tion Hub. Read more at Mod­ern­Health­care.com/Trans­for­ma­tion.

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