Think about the nearest large hospital. Would you know where to go if you wanted to visit your friend in the maternity ward? What if you wanted to find a cup of coffee while visiting your grandma late one evening? Can you find the lab if you are sent to the hospital for bloodwork?
Chances are, unless you work in the hospital or spend a lot of time there, you don’t know where to find anything. There are probably signs, and people offer directions, but you can’t remember …. Was it down the hall and the second left? Or the second left and then down the hall? Navigating a large complex can be confusing, and getting lost is so frustrating.
On the surface, a wayfinding app seems like a simple solution to a common problem. But when you put the time into developing a robust, useful wayfinding app, it can actually do more than show people where to go. It can be an important part of your healthcare app strategy, and a part of your overall marketing (i.e. patient acquisition and satisfaction) plan.
The Benefits of a Wayfinding App
According to research, in the typical large hospital (500 beds or more), interruptions due to wayfinding — people asking for directions, staff taking time to guide patients and visitors to their destination, etc. — can cost a facility more than $200,000 annually. And the older the hospital, the more the interruptions, thanks to decades of additions and new construction that can create a maze of corridors and towers.
A wayfinding app can do more than just save your facility money, though. Making it easier for visitors to find their way around offers additional benefits, such as:
Improved patient satisfaction. Studies indicate that the easier it is to find your way around a place, the happier you are. Getting lost increases stress (and hospitals are already stressful) and decreases feelings of accessibility within your facility. While a wayfinding app is never a replacement for clear, up-to-date signage, it can help create a more positive impression of your facility.
Increased engagement. A wayfinding app can do more than just tell visitors how to get to their destination. It can be a conduit to sharing meaningful content, a connection to a provider, and even a portal into a medical record. Even if it just counts the number of steps taken to reach the destination and puts it into fun terms (you just walked the equivalent of 6 football fields!) you can increase patient engagement with both your facility and their individual health.
Additional marketing opportunities. Some hospitals have implemented beacon technology, which allows customized messages to be sent to the wayfinding app when users come within range. This can be put to use in a number of ways: Imagine sending a coupon for a free pastry when someone passes by the coffee shop, or information about sun safety when passing by the dermatology department.
When you consider these significant benefits, creating a wayfinding app seems like an obvious choice. But how do you do it well?
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Wayfinding App Best Practices
When you begin developing your wayfinding app, it’s important to determine your goals for the app and focus on solving some specific problems. While a well-designed app has a lot of benefits, it cannot be all things to all people.
Once you’ve determined your goals, keep the following in mind as you develop the app:
- Use consistent nomenclature. Do you call it the Emergency Room or the Emergency Department? Or is it Urgent Care? Most people will cross reference the app with signage, so be consistent to prevent confusion.
- Remember ADA requirements. Offering a wayfinding app that doesn’t address visitors with disabilities is a recipe for disaster. Include options for ADA compliant routes, as well as multiple languages to maintain accessibility.
- Incorporate facility hours. Are all your entrances and routes available 24/7? If not, you need to ensure that the app doesn’t direct people to an entrance that isn’t open, and include options for schedule-based alternatives.
- Provide content that is contextually relevant, and use location-based marketing. As mentioned previously, you can use your app to share content and offers in appropriate ways.
Wayfinding seems like such a minor thing when it comes to hospital marketing, but it can be one of the most powerful parts of your overall strategy. Developing an app that is helpful, easy-to-use, and engaging can improve patient satisfaction and help you reach other marketing goals, so if you haven’t yet considered this tool, explore your options today.
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