Patients wandering around lost amid the University of Alabama at Birmingham's medical campus became such a problem that in 2013 hospital officials appointed a task force to come up with solutions.
It wasn't going to be easy. The complex covered a whopping 100 city blocks with four million square feet of buildings and parking facilities. “Our main reason to care about wayfinding is to reduce the anxiety for new patients and visitors coming to campus,” said Jordan DeMoss, Senior Associate Vice President at UAB Medicine. “We serve a wide range of patients in terms of both age and socioeconomic status, so we needed a solution that provides better directional support for all.”
In any complex physical environment — not just health systems, but shopping malls, airports, and universities — an effective wayfinding system is key to visitor satisfaction. Traditional wayfinding principles include architectural cues, physical signage, and lighting.
For instance, a colorful mural in a hospital corridor can be aesthetically pleasing but also serve as a notable landmark to help orient visitors. Many hospitals use volunteers at the front desk to give directions or to walk patients to their destination.
However, a growing number of health systems — like UAB Medicine — have been attracted to technological solutions like mobile apps, touchscreen kiosks, and digital signage. These wayfinding innovations cater to younger, more tech-savvy hospital visitors.
Visix, a software development firm based outside of Atlanta, Ga., provides digital signage solutions for corporate, education, healthcare, and government facilities. Patients type in their doctor's name and a flatscreen monitor displays the best route to get there. Visix's healthcare clients include WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Chicago Medical Center.