Helping patients find their way around large hospital campuses
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.