The text message from her Mom set the tone. “Took Stephanie to Memorial Hospital Emergency. Admitted.” While I am not prone to panic, my stress levels immediately rose. Driving to the hospital I was already wondering exactly where my daughter was. I entered through emergency; there wasn’t anyone at the desk. After what seemed like forever someone came out. “I’m looking for Stephanie? She came in through here 2 hours ago, but I think she was admitted.”
The very nice person looks at a screen and said, “Yes, she is in Room 4325 – go through these doors, turn left at the 3rd hallway, take elevator on the right to the 4th floor, left out the elevator, 2nd right, but make sure you go past L&D; it will be the 3rd or 4th door on the left.” I’m not sure I heard anything past “elevator”, but I started on my way. Almost immediately I was lost. Between my worries about my child and trying to make sense of the instructions to find her, I asked a passing nurse where room 4325 was. The obviously interrupted nurse hurriedly repeated the directions at least as far as the elevator.
After asking at least one more staff member where the room was, I found my daughter watching TV, with an IV in her hand. She smiled as I walked in. My stress levels started to go down. I was there and could help to take care of her and we were both happier for it.
What would have made that situation better would have been if there was an automated or self-guiding way to find my destination. I interrupted at least two staffers, one of them an emergency nurse, to try to figure out where I was going. Though I’ve been to that hospital quite a few times, I don’t think I’ve ever entered the main ward from the Emergency room, and certainly had never been in that patient wing.
Hospitals spend lots of time, thought, and money on figuring out how to navigate a hospital. Traditional signs, wall maps, digital signage, and apps all serve the purpose of helping patients and visitors get where they need to go without interrupting staff. Especially since I had been (and still go to) that hospital, if there was a phone-based facilities map I would have already had it on my phone and it would have made a huge difference to me.
Just like GPS for driving, smartphone based wayfinding uses Bluetooth low energy beacons to mark your position in the building on a hospital specific app. Not only can an app provide directions, it can provide an unlimited about of information to the patient. Cafeteria menus, Pharmacy hours, clinician Bios, and even discharge instructions can be published right on the device we already use to manage so much of our lives. Aruba customers like Cincinnati Children’s and New York Presbyterian have implemented mobile apps as part of their patient engagement strategies. As studies show, an engaged patient is a happier patient, and a happier patient is a healthier one.
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