Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Tech Options Abound for Digital Wayfinding: Wall Systems, Kiosks and Mobile Devices Provide Sophisticated Solutions

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Tech Options Abound for Digital Wayfinding: Wall Systems, Kiosks and Mobile Devices Provide Sophisticated Solutions

Article excerpt

As health care facilities become more complex, facility professionals are being challenged more than ever to provide new wayfinding solutions for visitors, patients and staff. Luckily, vendors have developed digital wall signage, digital wayfinding kiosks and hand-held/mobile digital wayfinding solutions to help people better navigate these environments.

Among the latest trends, digital wall signage is coming down in price, becoming more compact in design, and utilizing wireless and cloud-based networking and communications over traditional network setups. "This offers great advantages to facilities by reducing the impact and cost related to infrastructure setup when installing new signage systems," says Chris Douma, senior sales operations manager, 2/90 Sign Systems, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Recently, 2/90 Sign Systems developed a solution that includes a digital display and an architectural sign all in one unit, giving hospitals the ability to include digital signage content while maintaining their architectural signage standards. "Architectural signage and digital signage do not have to be in conflict. In fact, the best signage programs utilize both mediums together to successfully communicate with the user," Douma says.

As for wayfinding kiosks, freestanding and wall-mounted directories can effectively convey massive amounts of information in manageable bites. They also can address multilingual and Limited English Proficiency needs. "Where they break down is on content and upkeep," says Randy Cooper, SEGD DSE, president, Cooper Signage & Graphics Inc., Loganville, Ga. "Facilities administrators are reluctant to enter into multiyear maintenance and content management agreements and the software/hardware and content can quickly go out of date."

While standard digital kiosks represent most of the wayfinding solutions implemented within hospitals, the trend has been moving toward empowering patients and visitors with more information available via mobile applications, says Angel Newsom, health care consultant, Four Winds Interactive (FWI), Denver. "The goal for the hospital should be to have a variety of tools to serve patients' needs--from planning their visit to having GPS-style directions that take them from home to site, to the correct parking location and to the destination."

Personalized engagement

New technologies allow users to personalize the information. "Touch-screen menus allow people to send maps and routes to their smartphones," says Lillyan Wamaitha, marketing manager, Mvix Digital Signage, Sterling, Va. "Dynamic data such as doctor bios can be added to the kiosks, and meeting agendas can be added for a comprehensive yet intimate wayfinding experience."

To make this happen, self-navigation in complex spaces requires unified, simplistic terminology; straightforward physical addresses for destinations; and preferred pathways with defined waypoints along the way. "Only then can facilities managers develop a comprehensive approach, and the right mix of communicative tools, that responds to the needs of patients and families," Cooper notes.

Among the challenges that hospitals pose, the biggest issue for digital wayfinding systems today revolves around cell service, experts agree. Hospitals are large, complex campuses with seemingly endless interior hallways and rooms. In these hallways, cell service can be hard to come by, resulting in limited service, which skews most wayfinding applications.

The challenges posed by hospitals are not technical wayfinding challenges, says Joshua Titus, CEO and founder, Gozio Health, Atlanta. "We have the technology to achieve accurate indoor navigation of complex health care facilities with satellite locations. The challenge is that innovation is not always embraced by hospital culture. As that culture shifts to one that embraces innovation to their benefit, more hospitals will choose mobile wayfinding. …

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