Archive for December, 2012

Wayfinding: factoring vision, low literacy and language differences into your strategy

Written by Jay Lawrence on December 17th, 2012. Posted in Hospital kiosk, Hospital Wayfinding

Wayfinding confusion Wayfinding: factoring vision, low literacy and language differences into your strategy“Sigh…don’t they see the signage?”

Such a thought has likely passed through many a hospital staff member’s mind when approached for directions by a patient or visitor.

Yes, your hospital’s wayfinding signage may make perfect sense…to you. But certain personal limitations can hinder others’ ability to see, read and understand even the simplest of directions.

To ensure your signage is the most effective possible, here are three considerations you should always factor into your hospital wayfinding strategy:

1. Vision problems

Approximately 142 million adults over age 40 in the US have some sort of vision problem. And by 2030, it’s estimated that the rates of vision loss will double.

As a result, the need for visually clearer signage is increasing rapidly.

It may sound obvious, but it’s imperative that signage can be easily read. This means considering all types of design factors including:

  • Scale,
  • Type size and font(s),
  • Spacing and borders,
  • Lighting,
  • Color contrast, and
  • Viewing distance.

2. Low levels of literacy

According to Pro Literacy, almost 100 million adults in the US read at or below an eight-grade level.

Moreover, research shows a strong link between low literacy and poor health. This means many folks walking through your hospital’s doors can only deal with simple, clear materials involving uncomplicated tasks.

Adding more words to explain directions more explicitly is not the solution: in fact, doing so may only compound the problem.

A good wayfinding strategy will take into consideration the ability of the average person to:

  1. “Read” your content—whether in the way of words, universal health symbols or otherwise;
  2. Understand what you are trying to communicate; and
  3. Apply that insight to their next steps.

3. Minority languages

While English is still the predominant language in the US, census data shows that Spanish, Chinese, German, French, Korean and Vietnamese are the main languages spoken in 40 million homes across the country.

Facilitating multiple languages through signage is not an easy feat. To do so using “physical” signage (e.g., made of metal, wood, fabric etc.) is not only visually overwhelming, but can run up manufacturing costs.

Electronic wayfinding, offered through self-service kiosks, is a viable option that allows patients and visitors to select their language of preference.

Don’t forget to consider regional language differences: for example, French is spoken differently in the US than it is in Canada, and in France—and they may use different terminology or nuances to explain the same concept.

Wayfinding kiosks can be customized so the translation of certain terms is reflective of those subtle—yet significant—language differences.

You should also consider using more common, easy-to-understand, rather than complex scientific, words. For example, instead of “oncology,” use “cancer.”

It’s just good customer service

The hospital environment is intimidating enough without introducing the complexity of navigation into the mix. But by making your wayfinding strategy as inclusive as possible, you can expect to get fewer requests for directions to the nearest elevator or doctor’s office.

Lindsey McCaffrey is a freelance web and social media copywriter/blogger based in Ottawa, Canada. Read her Absolutely Write blog at

Keeping up with constant change: electronic wayfinding in hospitals

Written by Jay Lawrence on December 10th, 2012. Posted in Hospital kiosk, Hospital Wayfinding

Wayfinding we have moved Keeping up with constant change: electronic wayfinding in hospitalsLet’s be honest: hospitals are not exactly known for remaining static.

Picture it: Dr. Jones’ office moved to a new floor. The blood lab is closed for renovations and now in the basement. And your hospital’s main elevators just broke down…again.

Every one of these situations demands signage—something that will notify visitors, patients and staff of the facility change; and direct them to the appropriate location.

Got signage?

Your hospital should already have some form of signage. But have you considered whether it’s keeping up with all your facility changes?

In other words, every time you relocate a department, close off a ward or build a new wing, does your signage reflect—and effectively communicate—that change?

The frustration of getting lost or misled is one of the ongoing top complaints by hospital visitors. And in a competitive industry like healthcare, one negative experience—like guiding visitors in the wrong direction, making them late for their appointment—can result in a person taking their business elsewhere.

That’s why, when it comes to maintaining user loyalty, your signage must have a high degree of flexibility.

And that’s where electronic wayfinding comes in.

Real-time updates

Many sign types, such as building directories and hallway directionals, require frequent updates.

Electronic wayfinding lets your hospital easily alert visitors, patients and staff as changes occur by displaying multiple floors (even in multiple buildings) on an interactive touchscreen.

It can even provide “detour” or alternate directions (e.g., using maps and instructions) to wherever people need to go.

Cost-effective for your hospital, time-efficient for everyone

It’s a lengthy process to get a simple sign manufactured.

There’s design, approvals, rewrites, translation and production, among other tasks. The list goes on and on.

With electronic wayfinding, you don’t have to create hard-copy signage or involve lots of people to communicate each and every facility change. That’s because the hospital—not external vendors—is 100% in control of the signage.

Consider the time you’d spend getting one sign made, compared to clicking a button to communicate the same message. Then consider the cost-savings of electronic wayfinding, simply by avoiding the price you pay for each sign.

Thinking about “changing” course?

Getting people to their destinations with ease—whether it be an appointment, or to visit a sick family member or friend—is important to your hospital as a business.

If your hospital’s current signage isn’t flexible enough to deal with ongoing facility changes, it might be time to consider a new direction like electronic wayfinding.

It just might be your hospital’s best change yet.

Lindsey McCaffrey is a freelance web and social media copywriter/blogger based in Ottawa, Canada. Read her Absolutely Write blog at


Trade Mission to Finland Creates Opportunities for PatientWay

Written by Jay Lawrence on December 6th, 2012. Posted in Canadian Healthcare, Healthcare, Healthcare strategy, Healthcare Technology, Innovative Technology, PatientWay

From September 17-21, 2012, I was honoured to join Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen, Dr. Dave Williams, CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre, and other members of Newmarket’s business community on a trade mission to Finland.

Finland is internationally recognized for its thriving health sector including technology development, innovation and communications – areas that support Newmarket’s strategy for economic expansion.

During the delegation, we traveled to Helsinki, the Otaniemi technology hub in Espoo and Tampere to meet with Finnish representatives. The main objective of the mission was to promote Newmarket as an excellent launch pad into the North American market. Additionally, we gained a real appreciation of the innovation and creativity of Finnish research and technology organizations.

The delegation was well rounded; our grouped featured leaders from municipal and regional government, a large community hospital, and a university faculty of health. As well, we had representatives from an innovation acceleration centre, a multi-national corporation and health care technology approvals.

My role in the group served as the voice of the emerging Canadian entrepreneur. We travelled thousands of kilometers to build relationships with outstanding individuals from right around the corner.

As a group, we are reviewing several dozen opportunities to build relationships with Finnish companies. PatientWay is excited to move forward on a partnership of our own. Early 2013 we will be announcing this exciting addition to our product portfolio.

Throughout the trip the entire delegation marveled at how Finland is a beautiful and welcoming country. We all felt very much at home and it was unanimous that we are all eager to return.

We have returned to Canada inspired and invigorated. We are also eager to reciprocate the same hospitality that our Finnish hosts showed us in the spring of 2013 when a similar delegation will be visiting the Greater Newmarket Area.

Influencing those with purchasing power: building your business case for patient self-service

Written by Jay Lawrence on December 5th, 2012. Posted in Healthcare strategy, Hospital kiosk, Hospital management, Hospital process redesign, Patient satisfaction, Patient Self-Service

Doctor talking to bizman Influencing those with purchasing power: building your business case for patient self serviceYou’ve come to a decision: your healthcare facility needs to implement patient self-service technology.

Now, how can you get your superiors on board?

If you are building a case for change, you need to be well prepared for resistance. Patient self-service is replacing processes that staff (and patients) have been using and evolving for decades. This kind of change is often emotionally charged, and difficult at the best of times.

To persuade the people with deep pockets, you should integrate these three factors into your business case.

1. Pinpoint the risks and costs.

The main thing you want to do is to show the risk of NOT implementing the technology.

In other words, what kinds of things are keeping you (and should also be keeping your superiors) up at night?

You may be concerned about:

  • how much time (and money) staff are wasting on non-value activities—like fixing errors introduced through patient registration;
  • the potential for privacy breaches in your waiting room; and/or
  • the thousands, if not millions of dollars your hospital or clinic are incurring due to patient no-shows.

Use statistics, figures, anything to help properly demonstrate the negative predicament of your present situation. This will keep your argument less emotional, more factual and with any luck, more persuasive.

2. Discuss what others are doing.

What healthcare providers are doing patient self-service right? What ones do you—or more important, should your superiors—want to emulate?

Find out how other hospitals and clinics are making patients more active players in the registration and check-in process. Focus on success stories that demonstrate how self-service technology:

  • simplifies the patient registration process;
  • improves wayfinding/patient navigation throughout your facility; and/or
  • increases the likelihood that patients will attend their appointments.

Locate case studies, and include impressive figures in your proposal to show the before-and-after-implementation impact.

Even better: find and talk to these organizations yourself. Ask them to act as references, or to join you in a meeting with your executives to discuss their own patient self-service experiences.

3. Predict the reward based on calculated estimates.

If you only sell your idea of change based on idealistic, unseen promises of reward, your business case may not be so effective in moving people to action. In other words, discussing benefits in the abstract will only get you so far.

While it may be difficult to quantify how your healthcare facility will benefit from the technology, there are some tools out there—such as the PatientWay Value Calculator—that can quite accurately project several savings using values derived from your organization.

For example, the information in the table below was provided to PatientWay by a large community hospital with 400 beds:

Business case 11 Influencing those with purchasing power: building your business case for patient self service

Using the hospital’s data, the PatientWay Value Calculator was able to project the following savings, based on a 75% utilization of self-service technology for returning patients, and 33% for new patients:

Business case 21 Influencing those with purchasing power: building your business case for patient self service

After implementing PatientWay technology, the hospital’s real-world results closely matched those predicted by the Value Calculator.

Make it persuasive!

While important, technology alone is not sufficient for a successful project. You need buy-in: figuratively, as well as literally.

A well-crafted, intelligent argument for patient self-service will increase the likelihood that those with purchasing power will consider your proposed investment.

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