As wonderful as the title of this blog sounds, most often times, the idea of being in and out of a healthcare appointment is just that, an idea.
According to Forbes.com, the average American visits their doctor four times per year. That doesn't count any unforseen hospital visits, the amount of times you have to take your children, and any specialist visits. The Boston Globe reported that a research study conducted by students at Harvard Medical School found that America spent 1.1 billion hours (including travel time, forms, waiting, and face to face time with the doctor) obtaining healthcare for themselves or others.
Fortunately, as technology has adapted over time, so has the opportunity to use it within a hospital, surgery center, or doctor's office for more reasons than treatment. The technology we will talk about in this piece is digital signage.
Waiting room digital signage has become a helpful solution within the healthcare industry because it is such a dynamic technology. It can serve many purposes, from helping visitors find their way around a facility to entertaining patients in the waiting room.
With the many opportunities for use within a health care facility, it is important to be able to answer a few key questions such as: Where is digital signage most effective? What do I need to know before I create waiting room content? What content should be displayed?
Where is Digital Signage Most Effective?
This may sound crazy, but digital signage is most effective where your target audience can see it. If you are utilizing a display screen, you will want to hang it where it can easily attract the eye.
Be mindful of the arrangement of the seating within your office and be sure that your sign can be seen by all seats. Also, if you plan to have audible content, you will need to be sure it can be heard from all seats as well.
It can also be effective to use touch screen kiosks or hand-held screens depending upon the size of your office, or the goal of your signage. A kiosk can make the check-in process convenient for the patient, as well as your office staff.
Hand-held screens can be useful to entertain younger patients, perhaps in a pediatricians office, or for patients to complete surveys or questionnaires while passing their time waiting. Directional signage, or wayfinding, is a very effective way to utilize digital signage in large facilities like hospitals or surgery centers.
Digital wayfinding enables you to: direct patients to appropriate floors, elevators, and common areas; offers additional information about the facility and or the surrounding area that the hospital is situated in; can provide useful information for those waiting such as restaurant menus, expected wait times, or products and services offered by the facility.
Using a digital wayfinding solution allows for easy and real-time updates as well.
What Do I Need To Know Before I Create Waiting Room Content?
It is absolutely imperative to understand the goal for your digital signage before you can prepare the content for it. For example, if the goal is to use it as a means for communication then you don't want advertisements taking up the majority of the playlist space.
This is where you have to do some behind-the-scenes research ahead of time, prior to developing your content:
What is your primary goal for the digital signage in your facility?Content can include just about anything and everything your heart desires. From patient education, to communication, to entertainment, to staff training, to promoting products or services, to giving directions. You have to know the purpose of your signage before you can move on.
Who is your target audience?
In a larger facility, maybe staff communication is pertinent as the hectic schedule of a healthcare professional does not always allow for time to stop to check emails or newsletters, or even for training updates. Maybe your target is your patients and you want to create a better experience becuase you have a less than noteworthy average wait time.
What is your dwell time, or wait time for each patient?
What exactly is your wait time per patient? Vitals.com reports that the average wait time at a standard doctor's office is just over 19 minutes. In hospitals and surgery centers it is higher, sitting surprisingly at around 30 minutes according to USNews.
In the digital signage world, we call that dwell time, or the amount of time that a person has to stop and look at the screen. You have to know your dwell time before you can figure out the amount of content needed for your playlist.
What will the viewer's distance be to the screen?
Your need to evaluate the distance between your viewer and the screen is critical to the content you can include. As mentioned above, digital signage is most effective when it is visible from all seats and reaches your target audience.
Once you do the research to find these answers, you are ready to create your content.
What Content Should Be Displayed?
The content is the driving force behind reaching your digital signgage goals. Content is the message, it is what you are communicating to your target audience. There are five primary focuses for healthcare facility content. It is definitely ok to add something else if it fits your specific facility and helps you reach your goals, but we will take a look at the primary five.
Internal Communication - Medical facilities are often fast-paced, high intensity environments that do not allow for a lot of downtime. Communicating to hospital or surgery center staff to keep all apprised of policy updates, new and ongoing training, and upcoming events can be a lost effort.
Digital signage can fix that break in communication by including content on displays in staff common areas.
Safety Communication - Digital signage can also be used to communicate in less than comfortable situations. Being able to report real-time inclement weather, construction issues, dangerous situations needing immediate attention, giving specific directions and procedures to staff and patients, and communicating to specific areas of the location.
Patient Updates/Status - Often times in a hospital or surgery center, it is a patient's loved one who is doing most of the waiting. More times than not, it is an overly concerned wait at that as they may be worried about the outcome or happenings with their loved one. Digital signage can help ease some of that tension with providing updates or status' by using a patient identification number.
That number shows up on the screen and has a status indicator, maybe that status is "checked in," "in procedure," "in recovery," "discharged." Since that screen can be area specific this can be updated according to the specific waiting room or lobby for certain areas within the location, and in real-time.
The medical world is constantly changing with new discoveries and identifying solutions to health issues. Digital signage allows you to educate your patients on the latest and greatest opportunities on an ever-changing basis.
You can also educate your overly anxious patients on myths or unknowns that can change that feeling into a positive one.
Are there new technologies or procedures that your office is offering to patients and maybe at at a reduced rate? Perhaps it's the perfect time of year for a specific service you offer? Digital signage is a great place to showcase those service options and possibly even upsell for business growth.
With the average wait time in any medical office ranging from 15-30 minutes (as mentioned above), people are looking to pass that time relatively quickly, and what better way than to actually entertain them.
Digital signage offers almost an endless amount of entertainment options, but to highlight a few: "Meet the Staff" profiles, News/weather/sports broadcasts, FAQs, Local events, and/or Health and wellness related videos or trivia.
If using hand-held screens, you can have step by step procedures for the check-in process, forms that can be filled out electronically, surveys or questionnaires that could be completed, or even applications that entertain children if patients are younger.
We touched on this a little bit already above, however wayfinding and directional information is pertinent in larger settings. Digital signage can allow a visitor to easily find "where they are" on a digital directory, determine the end point, and some can even print the directions for them to take to get there.
Using digital displays allows for easy updating and can be used for specific areas of the hospital or surgery center.
Needless to say, digital signage can have a drastic impact on your healthcare facility, no matter the goal you are trying to accomplish. If technology and medicine continue to make updates on what seems to be a day to day basis, shouldn't your office be able to do the same for your patients?