How to Solve Navigation Issues in a Big Hospital 

June 3, 2022

Large hospitals are often equipped with some of the most advanced equipment and some of the most talented people in a given area. They have an abundance of resources and facilities, but they’re also incredibly difficult to navigate – especially for visitors that don’t’ have much experience in these buildings.

Better navigation can lead you to higher patient satisfaction, greater workplace efficiency, and a better experience for visitors, but how can you do it?

Sensible Layouts

More than 30 percent of first-time visitors end up lost and confused in a large hospital – with half of the doctors getting lost or disoriented on their way to crash calls at some point. Some of this is inevitable, based on the size and scope of the building. But some of it is attributable to counterintuitive layouts.

For example, it pays to cater to incoming visitors. Each entrance should intuitively guide visitors to a welcome desk, a greeter, or some kind of wayfinding kiosk that can direct them further. It also pays to keep the wings and floors of your hospital appropriately organized and labeled; related departments should be physically close to one another, minimizing the travel distance for both staff members and visitors.

Digital Signage

Another way to improve wayfinding is with the help of digital signage software. Digital signs throughout your building can help people understand where they are, where they’re’ going, and how to get there. A simple map, with all important sections labeled, can instantly improve a person’s understanding of the space. Touchscreen digital signage can provide turn-by-turn directions for staff, departments, or events, and you can even send them to your phone from the digital sign. 

As an added bonus, digital signage software allows you to take full control of the messaging on your digital signs. You can rotate through various messages, display data in addition to maps, post images and videos that keep people engaged with the brand, and even communicate with staff members in an emergency.

Employee Help

No matter how beautiful or informative your digital signs are, there are going to be some people who won’t’ (or can’t’) read them. Because of this, it pays to have knowledgeable, experienced employees who are willing to step in and help lost parties.

  • Employee knowledge and familiarity. The first important step to follow here is ensuring your employees are knowledgeable and familiar with the territory. If they don’t’ know where all the different departments are, or if they aren’t sure how to navigate effectively, they’re’ not going to be able to help anyone else. Provide additional training if necessary.
  • Emphasis on customer service. Every member of your team needs to have a customer service-centric mentality. No matter who they are or what their position is, they should be willing to help others find what they’re looking for. If someone looks lost, an employee should step up to guide them.
  • Immediate direction. It’s’ better to prevent confusion than to try to address it reactively. Accordingly, you should have an associate greet people as soon as they walk in or provide them instructions at a welcome desk.

Proactive Communication

It’s’ also a good idea to proactively communicate with patients and visitors and help them navigate before they ever enter your building. For example, in an email reminding a patient of an upcoming appointment, you can tell them the floor they need to access, the room they’re’ going to be in, and how to get there from different entrances. Not all people are going to read (or follow) these instructions, but they can clarify things and serve as a valuable primer.

Surveys and Feedback

Do you routinely collect patient feedback? Surveys are one of your best tools for measuring whether your navigation strategy is effective. Patients (and sometimes visitors) will have an opportunity to express their thoughts about your organization, including how easy it was to find what they needed and how much help they got along the way. Once you start collecting surveys and crunching the numbers, you’ll quickly determine whether your strategy is working – and what needs to be improved in the future.

If you’re’ struggling to make improvements, or if you feel like something is “off,” consider gathering more ideas from your employees. Do your staff members have ideas for how the flow could be improved or how you can better communicate with incoming patients?

No matter what, there are going to be some limitations on what you can accomplish in this area. Your hospital is a fixed size, and any large building is going to have the potential to be confusing to newcomers. Patients and visitors may be disinclined to use the tools you provide for them. And major changes to the building layout or available paths can throw your entire plan into chaos. Still, with these strategies and your ongoing commitment, you should be able to make navigation in your hospital far easier and more accessible. 


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