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Meet them where they are: Displaying the patient journey

Questions, concerns and a wide range of emotions are present in every medical center, underlining the importance of accurate, timely communications for patients, visitors and staff.

Static printed signs and sheets can manage some of the bare essential communication needs, but healthcare providers in spaces from specialized medical clinics to multibuilding hospital campuses increasingly need quickly updated, easily targeted digital signage technology and smart content to improve the quality of messaging.

Different types of displays serve different needs in healthcare settings and can be tuned to the dynamics and demands of each location and scenario.

Mind over matter

The questions and uncertainty start the moment patients and loved ones enter the lobby of a hospital. They may be anxious or worried. Displaying digital content can help to calm the nerves of patients and their loved ones as soon as they walk through your doors.

By delivering messages of hope and inspiration, such as success stories of recovering patients in a rehabilitation facility, you can reassure new patients that they are in the hands of skilled and knowledgeable professionals. Soothing digital art in waiting rooms can also help patients achieve a better frame of mind. Such displays can even be leveraged as effective branding tools for caregiving organizations competing for business and, in some cases, staff, providing easily accessible information on hospital benefits and rates of positive patient outcomes.

During the 2020 health crisis, digital signage has also played a critical role in informing stakeholders of evolving restrictions and safety guidelines within a facility. Publicizing this messaging can add to patients’ impressions that they are in good hands while enabling personnel to respond to rapid situational changes more effectively.

Guiding the way

A hospital’s first-time visitors may be particularly anxious and unsure where to go or what to do, particularly in large multilevel or multibuilding medical complexes. Digital signage technology can offer visitors direction as they move around the campus, as well as useful information about a facility’s offerings. Visible displays in common areas, for instance, can be employed to raise awareness of events, services and amenities like parking. Some systems can even push step-by-step directions to smartphones on demand for real-time navigation.

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Other healthcare systems load multiple languages into the wayfinding application, enabling visitors to get the needed information in their first language and taking strain off reception counter staffers, who would otherwise need to find translators on or offsite.

Digital wayfinders and directories can also be set to multitask as additional marketing tools that revert to a scheduled rotation of messaging — such as promotion for an upcoming public lecture — when not in active use by a visitor. High-brightness and outdoor-ready displays can do the work in a sun-filled atrium or an outdoor plaza.

Augmenting waiting areas

Medical centers are full of waiting rooms in emergency departments, clinics, labs and diagnostic areas. Digital screens are used in a variety of ways to address both the needs and interests of patients and visitors:

Queue management: Take-a-number slips are being replaced by check-in kiosk displays that register patient arrival, notify the management desk and assign numbers that appear on screens in seating areas.

Distraction: Because wait times may be lengthy, waiting room screens can be effective tools for calming visitors concerned about the length of wait times, and for distracting them from what is likely a situation of emotional unease.

Patient education: In condition-specific clinics — diabetes clinics, for example — screens in sitting areas can prepare patients and their loved ones to learn more about a certain condition and the process of treating it. While it’s no replacement for one-to-one conversations with caregivers, well-prepared screen content can cover common questions and allow doctor-patient visits to progress to the most important matters more quickly.

Facilitating healthcare worker communication

In care centers and nurses’ stations, there has been notable use of dry-erase boards, with clinicians frequently, and often frantically, updating rotating schedules and patient information. However, as healthcare records are becoming increasingly digitized and more internet-connected devices are showing up in healthcare settings, these whiteboards can now be replaced with digital dashboards.

Transitioning to high-resolution digital displays can realize many benefits for healthcare facilities. For example, sloppy handwriting would no longer be an issue in interpreting information about a patient’s condition or treatment regimen. At-a-glance digital dashboards can keep clinical teams up to date with regard to room or caregiver assignments, patient status, restrictions and completion rates of assigned tasks.

While classic dry-erase whiteboards depend on caregivers updating them when they can, digital dashboards are smart and can be updated automatically when tied to real-time data from patient management systems.

Enhancing patient rooms

Tablet-sized displays are becoming increasingly common beside the entry doors of meeting rooms in workplaces, hotels and convention facilities, letting everyone know who has the room booked, what the meeting is about and when the space will be available.

This same concept is now being extended to the exterior walls of patient care rooms, helping visitors locate a patient and informing them if that person is absent — for example, by showing that the patient is in imaging, getting an x-ray. In addition, these screens can grant caregivers instant access to vital patient information, including whether visitors are allowed, drug restrictions, pain levels, care team names and when the last staff visit took place.

Recognizing contributions

Most medical centers rely on personal and corporate donations to expand or upgrade facilities, and donors have typically been honored on engraved or plaque-filled walls.

The advent of narrow-bezel LCD and direct-view LED video walls has allowed the fundraising wings of hospitals to elevate donor recognition with high-profile feature walls. Rich graphics and videos can showcase major donors, describe how their contributions have been used and raise awareness of new fundraising campaigns. In some cases, donor walls are even interactive, enabling visitors to sort through donors and launch detailed descriptions or targeted videos on demand.

Healthcare settings can be intimidating and bewildering, and a critical component of delivering better care and ensuring happier patients is effective, timely communication. In many situations, no tool can facilitate this more effectively than well-placed and well-conceived digital signage.

Find out more on how digital signage can be effectively used in the healthcare setting with this free white paper. Explore the role of digital signage in displaying real-time information in public settings.

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Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes is a well-known veteran in the digital signage industry. He consults to some of the world’s largest brands on their digital signage strategy and technical needs, but also spends time mentoring start-ups. A former daily newspaper journalist, Haynes has for the past decade written a highly-respected blog about digital signage, Sixteen:Nine. Follow Dave on twitter @sixteennine

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