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Will Digital Signage solve the ongoing wayfinding issues in Hospitals?

(August 17-2011, State College PA, USA)

It is often jokingly said that the national symbol for a hospital is ‘the Crane’. To keep up with regulations and service levels many hospitals appear to be in a constant state of re-organization. While hospitals make an excellent effort in keeping this as unnoticeable as possible for their patients/visitors, one aspect that is difficult to address is Wayfinding.

After years of building renovations, additions and department relocations, internal wayfinding becomes impossible. Some floors can’t be reached with certain elevators, and to get to some departments, one has to utilize other entrances or hallways not visible from their current location.

As a result of this, some hospitals use staff and volunteers to occupy key positions inside the building to redirect patients and visitors in the right direction. In some extreme cases, each patient is being escorted from the entrance to the designated department.

There are other negative side-effects to bad indoor wayfinding. Take into consideration the visitor’s frustration, which can affect their entire mindset during the visit. An already, potentially, stressful situation exacerbated by getting lost, possibly arriving late, affecting the treatment process.

Imagine the extra cost.

The challenge of solving the wayfinding problem is a moving target. Tomorrow’s changes make today’s system obsolete.

So what is out there that can assist the Hospital, in this ever changing wayfinding challenge?

Architects and interior designers help by way of incorporating special features into the structural design of the building. These ‘clues’ help our cognitive abilities to orient ourselves in spatial environments. However, this ‘new science’ is more part of modern thinking and its practices are not very present in older buildings. They also are of less assistance for people with disabilities.

Static Signage is used to point the user into the right direction by way of directional signs at key locations. They work great for pointing out the direction along the way. These days they also cater to people with visual disabilities by providing tactile information as well. However, static signage is very ‘static’ and as such, can only be changed by fabricating a new sign, often providing a gap between the new situation and when the updated signage is installed, which can be confusing and costly in the meantime. And since Hospitals are subject to a lot of changes over any given time, static signage leaves a lot to be desired.

Newcomer on the ‘wayfinding horizon’ is digital signage, which provides directions on request and can be updated on-the-fly. Digital Wayfinding can be provided by Kiosk, LCD (touch), on the Web and Mobile devices. A significant aspect is that all platforms are simultaneously updated as soon as a change is made through the administrative system.

There is of course, the concern of acceptance by the public but with self-service kiosks showing up more and more all around us, this issue seems to solve itself as we go.

The Digital Signage display is preferably a LCD touch screen of 42”and up. This leaves a lot of room for the graphic designer to create an easy-on-the-eyes digital wayfinding application, with room left to display other information such as news, weather, clinics information, the physician in charge, opening times of the Hospital and other messages.

The Wayfinding system can be made ADA and 508 compliant and can offer alternate accessible directions as well.

Other industries that can profit from Digital Wayfinding Signage are Universities, Malls, Airports, Corporate and Government Buildings.
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ron@here2theresoftware.com
Skype: ron.koningh2t

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