How does wayfinding help optimise human flows in hospitals?
Hospitals can sometimes appear as real labyrinths for patients and visitors: many services present in the same place, spread over several floors, with a lot of traffic in the aisles; it is easy to get lost. Moreover, for medical staff, guiding visitors and patients can become a laborious and especially time-consuming task, as the time used to give directions to patients and visitors could be better spent providing care. It is therefore important to guide them as best as possible in order to make their hospital experience more pleasant, but also to limit the risks of delays that can impact the whole activity of the services.
In our hospitals today, there are more and more different methods to help visitors find their way around the facilities, starting with signs and signage. It is indeed common to find large signs at the entrances of buildings indicating the floor – and sometimes even the aisle – where each service is located or the consultation rooms of each doctor, as well as directional signs in the corridors to guide. There are also maps, mainly in the lobby and in strategic locations such as near elevators and staircases, which indicate the entrances and exits of the buildings, the location of the floor, and points of interest such as reception and administration areas, cafeterias and restrooms.
Good signage can transform hospital premises into a complete welcoming ecosystem. At the Orléans Regional Hospital, for example, services are grouped by “poles” identified by colour: emergency and operating rooms in the red pole, cardiology and neurology in the yellow pole, and paediatrics in the green pole. In addition, each pole has a specific reception area to guide visitors. It is thus sufficient to first go to the pole (distinguished by its walls of the corresponding colour) of a specific service and then follow the indications on the signs or ask the receptionists help to get to the waiting room.
…and its limits
However, these signs may not be intuitive enough for some people, and this can create problems in the hospital, such as a people gathering in front of the maps to find their way, making circulation more difficult and less fluid. Also, with the influx of patients caused by the Covid-19 crisis in the first wave, this method was not sufficient to manage human flows while maintaining recommended social distancing.
Digital solutions for patient guidance
Our hospitals must therefore become more modern, for example through mobile applications or connected terminals, to avoid this kind of phenomenon and facilitate wayfinding within the hospital: we are increasingly used to use GPS on our smartphones, adapting this technology for an application to guide us through the corridors inside hospitals would be a practical solution to avoid getting lost on the way to our medical appointment. We could simply select the doctor with whom we have an appointment to obtain a route through the hospital to his or her consultation room, regardless of the building and floor where it is located in relation to our initial position. In addition, several options could be added to define the route, such as choosing whether we prefer to take the elevator or the stairs to get from one floor to another, or automatically defining an adapted route for a person with reduced mobility.
Digital solutions for staff too
This signage is also useful for the staff, especially temporary workers, new employees or trainees, for whom the knowledge of the place is very limited when they arrive. They will therefore tend to refer to maps and signs to help them find their way inside the premises but having a mobile applicationwith wayfinding could help them navigate more easily and make them save time. Geolocation technologies can also be useful for locating equipment: knowing the location of equipment storage room, or the location of equipment circulating in the service near you, is a plus for caregivers so they don’t waste time searching for needed equipment.
Mobile wayfinding will also be useful for external contributors: when an external technician comes to the hospital to carry out maintenance on a contracted equipment, he will also follow the directions on the mobile application to get to the department where the required equipment is located. The clearer and more precise the directions, the quicker the technician will be able to work on the medical device to get it back in working order.
Good signage within a hospital, wayfinding methods as well as geolocation tools for hospitalised patients help avoid gathering of people to consult the plans, and limit delays in appointments by making it possible to get to the consultation rooms on time. In the case of an RTLS (Real-Time Location System) solution, this also allows for the traceability of patients throughout their hospitalisation process.
Hybrid RTLS combines the benefits of different location tracking technologies to provide the most efficient results for tracking needs and can be used for multiple use cases. As indoor and outdoor positioning become increasingly interconnected, it is important to consider how to combine different RTLS technologies to improve ROI and meet the needs of end-users.
RTLS is often associated with “expensive” and “complex” in the minds of industrials. But technology adoption by the consumer markets changed everything, and provides now industrials with the opportunity to deploy an asset tracking solution with a sub-year ROI.