Improved Wayfinding Can Help Reduce Missed Appointments
Attending a healthcare appointment shouldn’t be a daunting task.
Inaccessible medical buildings, especially multi-level ones spread out across large campuses with a complex waiting area setup, for example, can be strenuous to navigate for some communities, including groups such as blind or low-vision visitors and those who don’t speak the same language as the country in which they’re getting medical treatment.
It’s important to remember that anyone visiting a doctor’s office or hospital, regardless of age or disability status, is likely during an emotionally vulnerable state and is more likely to get stressed if they can’t find their way, which contributes to creating a low-quality experience for patients at healthcare facilities, even if the care provided is of high quality. Navigating these spaces can sometimes be so frustrating for a patient that they avoid going in the first place or never find the correct office and miss their appointment.
Getting from the parking lot to the reception shouldn’t be a journey someone has to meticulously plan in advance. Improved wayfinding technology can help everyone find their way from Point A to B and ensure patients get the healthcare they require while keeping the operational data flow of the medical office intact.
No-Shows Are No Good
Appointment compliance, or the importance of a person showing up to attend a scheduled appointment on time, can be negatively impacted by the inaccessibility of medical buildings. Missed appointments have a ripple effect for both the patient and staff involved, such events as:
- The patient misses out on medical care, which can lead to more health problems or preventable deaths.
- The patient will likely still be billed for a missed appointment, creating a financial burden.
- The patient has a stressful or upsetting experience and has to arrange a follow up date.
- The physician and staff lose time and have decreased efficiency.
- The attendance schedule for the day may get backed up and impact other patients’ appointment times or facility operations.
Traditional Solutions Aren’t Cutting It
This isn’t a new problem. And while there have been some advances in wayfinding and planning over the years, some solutions that have been implemented (and have been successful in the past) don’t always work for everyone or help increase attendance, such as:
- Visual Wayfinding. Even detailed signage with clear sightlines doesn’t help everyone: visitors who are blind or don’t speak the language don’t benefit from these visual cues.
- Greeters. Some facilities offer a guide to meet you at the entrance and walk you to the correct location. However, these greeters are often volunteers and may not always be available at every time or environment. This service may also cost additional money, which may not be feasible for every patient.
- Information Kiosks. Many hospitals or large medical centers have a digital directory – a catalog of locations, often with a map or directions to specific areas of the building. Unless these directories offer all the information in Braille or have an auditory feature, they exclude the blind community. And even if they do have those features, it can be hard to memorize step-to-step directions in an unfamiliar environment, especially if you are already stressed.
- Virtual Appointments. While video calls with your provider can be helpful for consultations, sometimes you need to physically visit your doctor for testing or procedures.
The Evolution of Solutions
New wayfinding technology, especially through data maps and mobile apps, will increase the efficiency of indoor medical spaces and help people get to their appointments on time without the stress of getting lost.
Navigation helps people attend their appointments by:
- Providing auditory, turn-by-turn directions to their destination.
- Keeping up with changes in building layout via real-time updates.
- Alerting the user of amenities, such as bathrooms or elevators.
- Providing the ability to independently navigate the space, thus eliminating the need to plan their schedule around another person’s availability.
Plugging data from an address into your car’s GPS and having it guide you to a destination is second nature these days, but indoor navigation still isn’t as commonplace as its outdoor counterpart. Why not?
Digital wayfinding technology is the future of accessible navigation. Obviously, it will help everyone find where they need to be, but it will be especially beneficial to specific groups and the likelihood of their attendance. Ultimately it will mean fewer missed healthcare appointments and help create and sustain a healthier and more efficient community.