Wayfinding as Health Care

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New Hospital Maps wayfinding function available soon on UH Now mobile app

By Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD
Chief Clinical Transformation Officer

When I was walking down Lakeside way at UH Cleveland Medical Center the other day, I noticed an elderly couple stopped. They both looked worried; the woman was shaking. She was reading a piece of paper that looked to have directions; he was looking at the signs, trying to find his way.  Sensing they were lost, a nurse walked up to them and asked if she could help.  She put her hand on the woman’s shoulder and said, “I will take you where you need to go.” You could see the couple’s anxiety and fear diminish.     

This type of event plays out many times every day. In large hospitals, wayfinding is hard, really hard, and despite lots of iterative attempts to solve it, defects in wayfinding are the norm rather than the exception.

What does this have to do with the clinical care we provide? In our over-arching model of providing high-quality care, consistently having a group of lost and anxious patients can be considered a defect. Taking steps to eliminate this defect means improved value for the patient. Value is about quality plus experience over total cost of care. If people are lost and anxious before and upon arriving for their appointments, this impacts their experience and quality, which in turn affects the value equation. In our approach to quality, we aspire to zero defects. 

To put these ideas into action, one of the principles we’ve committed to in our new Consumer Journey Committee is to declare “no needless suffering from confusion about where to go.” As part of our goal that no patient suffers from worrying how to get to their appointment, we are leveraging technology.   Led by UH Ventures, we’ve added seamless integration of wayfinding technology into our existing UH Now mobile app.

The function is called Hospital Maps. Using smartphone technology, in conjunction with the earth’s magnetic sphere and beacons located throughout UH Cleveland Medical Center, it provides patients and others with a clear walking path to get from one location to another. Using the same approach that sea turtles use to find their way, the new Hospital Maps function in the UH Now app will help people find their way.  It will be a huge advance.  At this time, Hospital Maps can only be used at UH Cleveland Medical Center. However, at a later date, we will evaluate the potential for using the app at other UH locations. 

Hospital Maps will be incorporated into the UH Now mobile app and available for the public to use on August 16. Once it’s publicly launched,  I encourage you use it yourselves, as well as recommend it to patients and visitors as a means of lessening the anxiety involved with navigating UH Cleveland Medical Center, which can be quite overwhelming. Some of us have also been confused ourselves, as we don’t always know our way around the facility!

However, technology is just one part of creating an optimal experience for patients. Working with UH Volunteer Services and Joan Zoltanski, MD, Chief Experience Officer, the UH Ventures team has co-designed best practices around greeting patients and providing outstanding customer service. Value to patients, family and guests – when done well – should be human-centered and enabled by technology.

Patients’ encounters with the health care system are stressful enough as it is – we want to do everything we can and provide every tool possible to lessen that stress – or at least not add to it. These new initiatives to create positive micro-moments when a patient first enters UH Cleveland Medical Center are an important part of achieving that.

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