Visiting a healthcare facility can be an experience filled with anxiety and confusion. It is often a time of worry – either for yourself or for the one that you are visiting. This emotional state can lead to unclear thoughts and confusion about where to go and what to do. For the staff, the experience can be challenging as well. Employees have to cope with a fast-paced and dynamic environment filled with panicked family members, ill patients, and miscommunication amongst each other. Questions (from both staff and patients/visitors) can become repetitive, noise can be overwhelming, and procedures may be forgotten.
Digital signage can help improve some of these issues. Used frequently in many other industries, its advantages are now being recognized in healthcare. It has the potential to reduce anxiety and confusion by improving efficiencies, providing information, and offering entertainment. These benefits will be discussed in further detail below.
Benefit #1: Improving Efficiencies
A clear process to follow can ensure the healthcare environment does not create additional stress to patients, visitors, and staff. Digital signage can be linked to a queueing system that manages patient flow and displays wait time expectations. Simply having an idea of when you or your friend/family member will be seen can give a better sense of control over the experience, and an ordered environment helps employees serve their patients more effectively. Digital signage also helps staff members communicate , since it can answer the questions of patients/visitors and provide information to their coworkers. Coordinating changing schedules can be done digitally and displayed wherever is convenient. Another advantage is that the technology allows content to be easily updated with minimal cost and effort.
Benefit #2: Providing Information
Providing information at the right time is important to avoid anxiety and confusion. Healthcare facilities are often complex and ever-changing, with many floors and wings. Through work with Calgary’s South Health Campus (Alberta Health Services), Shikatani Lacroix experienced this challenge firsthand in the development of its wayfinding system that helps visitors navigate over 100-acres of facilities. Different ability levels is also important to consider in wayfinding – a factor that was taken into account in the accessible navigation signage of the Whitby Abilities Centre that included tactile type, braille, colour coding, and universal pictograms.
Digital signage is a key, adaptable wayfinding tool to help customers navigate complex healthcare environments and can be modified as the space evolves. It can also offer key information in other situations. In an emergency scenario, digital signage can be programmed to display instructions to everyone in the facility to help quickly inform and maintain order. In less dire circumstances, it can promote healthcare services or offer health education, inform staff of new protocols and training, and provide status updates to those anxiously awaiting results. In cafeterias, digital signage can display food choices and nutritional guidelines. Digital screens can also be used to help patients visualize medical results to help them understand confusing conditions.
Benefit #3: Offering Entertainment
Sometimes the only way to help anxious and confused patients and visitors is through distraction. Waiting is a stressful experience, compounded with symptoms of illnesses. Digital screens that provide an escape from this reality can be welcome additions to waiting rooms, especially if there is no cell phone reception. By entertaining patients and visitors, perceived wait times are reduced. They can also be made interactive with touchscreen capabilities for added engagement. In patient rooms, digital screens can display entertainment, menu items, and calming visuals to help with the healing process. For children, digital technology can help transform clinical, frightening spaces (such as MRI rooms) into more positive experiences.
Digital signage in healthcare can be a key tool in reducing anxiety and confusion for patients, visitors, and staff. Its benefits of improving efficiencies, providing information, and offering entertainment can help make the healthcare experience less stressful for all. And with less stress and higher patient care, a happier workplace can be provided. It is a technology that is used frequently in other industries, such as menu boards in foodservice, for its agility to be easily updated and display promotional information, as well as offering dynamic visuals. This shift to digital in healthcare (as well as many other industries) is disrupting traditional processes as it offers new opportunities. From surgical robots to wearable biosensors, digital innovations emerging today are giving us a glimpse into the future of healthcare.