Digital Wayfinding and Visual Communication Enhance the Patient Experience and Save Money

July 11, 2023

Health care facilities estimate losing $200,000 per year due to scheduling conflicts directly caused by patient navigation challenges.

// By Clay Anderson //

Clay Anderson, global product manager of software, CenTrakFirst impressions are crucial. Those early moments can make or break a positive experience, especially when seeking to build long-lasting relationships with new patients and customers.

Even before an appointment begins, new patients, existing patients, or visitors often take measures to prepare for their visit, including figuring out how to get to their destination, where to park, and time to travel.

Once they enter a health care facility, effective visual communications go a long way in ensuring a welcoming environment. Digital signage and wayfinding help empower patients and visitors during a time when they may feel lack of control. Reducing stress associated with a hospital visit is essential to elevating the overall experience.

As health care becomes increasingly competitive, the line between patient and customer blurs. Health care facilities must anticipate patient needs and meet expectations in a timely manner with convenient solutions and effective communication.

One such solution is digital wayfinding. As any sized health care campus can be overwhelming for patients and visitors to navigate, digital wayfinding and interactive signage and maps provide easy-to-use indoor and outdoor navigation guidance. These indoor GPS-like solutions address an immediate need with a user-friendly and familiar approach that enhances the experience and builds patient loyalty.

Make Navigation Easy and Clear for Everyone

Hospital campuses and health care facilities can be difficult and intimidating for patients to navigate. Some medical centers cover multiple city blocks, causing navigation challenges for first-time and repeat patients alike. Medical campuses grow and change over time. Each new unit, department, or building can disrupt a patient’s known path. Clear communications can help ease any confusion.

Leveraging a real-time location system (RTLS) with an advanced digital wayfinding solution can easily create a route to guide the user through the navigation process step by step.

Building floorplans and outdoor maps are overlaid onto a private, intuitive Google Maps interface like this one at Cooks Children’s Medical Center, allowing users to have a sense of familiarity while providing real-world contextual information about their location and where they are in relation to their plans.

Using a mobile application, often embedded into a facility’s existing app or developed as a custom-branded solution, real-time digital wayfinding provides clear instructions for the best place to park, the most efficient route to follow, and notes the user’s precise parking location.

Upon conclusion of the appointment, the digital wayfinding solution will guide the user back to their car or initial starting point. Each route is highlighted and provides real-time turn-by-turn directions as well as points of interest (POIs) along the way.

Top digital wayfinding solutions can also leverage QR codes inside and outside health facilities. This no-hardware solution is both cost-effective and easy for patients and visitors to use. With this approach, users can quickly scan a QR code in the parking lot, using the camera and browser on their mobile device, and then select the relevant POI (point of interest) from the facility’s list. The solution then generates the fastest route from the current location directly to the desired destination. 

Robust Integrations and Quick Digital Updates

Digital wayfinding solutions provide a variety of benefits, including easy integrations with existing systems. For example, with an EHR integration, health care providers can offer helpful details in their appointment reminders, including where to park, the fastest route to their appointment location, and the duration of the walk. Patients can quickly launch navigation directly from the appointment reminder. Information can be sent via email, or SMS from the facility’s mobile app, or patient portals such as Epic MyChart.

As facilities change over time, a cloud-based content management system allows for administrative flexibility to future-proof your wayfinding and location services platform. The web-based admin portal helps facilities effortlessly keep critical information up to date, including facility maps, points of interest with metadata, pathways/routing, and geofence zones.

Save Staff Time and the Facility’s Bottom Line

The health technology industry is rapidly growing and seeks to provide a high-quality, human experience for patients and their families. With new technologies constantly emerging, facilities must be selective in implementing proven, user-friendly, and high-ROI solutions that benefit patients, staff, and operations.

When patients are timely for appointments, staff can remain on schedule, increase patient throughput, and meet the needs and expectations of all patients in the most efficient manner. Health care facilities estimate losing $200,000 per year due to scheduling conflicts directly caused by patient navigation challenges. Collectively, hospitals lose $150 billion nationwide each year due to missed appointments.

Late appointments can be just as costly. Health care team members lose precious time while monitoring for late patients. Tardiness backs up the schedule and creates costly inefficiencies, and impacts satisfaction and reduces HCAHPS scores from the on-time patients who are kept waiting. A patient rushing to an appointment will often stop anyone in a uniform to ask for directions — usually a doctor or nurse — which can also take time away from other patient care and duties.

These location solutions elevate patient experience initiatives and give patients an idea of where they are going before ever setting foot on campus. This knowledge ensures reduced need for staff to provide direction assistance and therefore lowers staff interruptions.

Give Patients the Navigation Communication They Desire

When considering navigational tools, it is crucial to find a strategic partner with a comprehensive project plan and ongoing support in place to ensure the system reaches its full ROI potential. Working closely with a strategic solution consultant can help alleviate planning challenges such as outdated floorplans and traditional wayfinding signage. Collaboration with the consultant can also help define wayfinding standards such as consistent naming conventions and optimizing routes to support optimal flow of traffic.

Digital wayfinding solutions in health care facilities allow for a smooth journey from home to campus, and finally, to the desired location. Decision-makers should pursue options that provide directions in multiple formats — mobile apps, browsers, and on-site kiosks — for patient ease.

Users should be able to customize routes based on accessibility needs, switch between floor-level views, save parking locations, search for popular POIs, and extend the solution view to multiple campuses, all within one convenient interface.

Effective visual communications paired with other digital front-door technology will ensure patients and visitors have a positive experience with the health care facility, whether on-site or at home.

Clay Anderson is global product manager of software at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the health care industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 health care organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. For more information, visit