Rethinking Healthcare Facility Designs for Increased Patient- and Family-Centered Care
By: Matt Goche, CEO of Uniguest
When it comes to the patient experience, first impressions are crucial. Healthcare systems seek to develop long-lasting relationships with new and existing healthcare consumers and initial encounters can make or break an experience. New patients, existing patients, and loved ones often take measures to ensure they’re prepared for a visit before stepping into a facility, including confirming directions, parking information, and travel time. I have certainly experienced this mindset when preparing for an appointment or supporting family. Once patients are physically in the healthcare facility, effective visual communications assist in creating a welcoming environment. This is important. The use of digital signage, patient engagement tools, and wayfinding empowers patients and visitors during a time when they may feel a lack of control. Reducing the stress associated with a hospital visit and increasing patient engagement is essential to elevating the overall experience.
As healthcare becomes increasingly competitive, the line between patient and customer blurs. Healthcare facilities must anticipate needs and meet expectations in a timely manner with intuitive solutions and clear communication. Patient expectations are constantly evolving, and leadership, architects, and facilities managers must upgrade designs and technologies to meet these needs while accommodating staff as well. The growing reliance on technology in everyday life is leading to an increase in demand for digital solutions throughout the healthcare journey for all stakeholders. In fact, 84% of healthcare leadership surveyed by HIMSS Research agree that their patients are demanding a “more personalized, holistic digital experience” and the Deloitte 2022 Consumer & Physician Survey revealed that 90% of patients want digital engagement and navigation options. At the same time, Experian Health survey results reveal that 100% of respondents feel staffing shortages have affected patient engagement efforts.
The solution? Thoughtful facility designs and comprehensive engagement systems that help staff reallocate time to patient care. Through this approach, caregivers gain more collaboration with patients to focus on their unique needs and achieve higher-quality outcomes.
Patient Engagement and Family-Centered Care Go Hand-in-Hand
Impactful patient engagement calls for an approach that considers the patient and loved ones at each step of care (planning, delivery, and evaluation) to mutually benefit relationships among patients, providers, and families. It is about better engaging care partners and positioning support around each unique family to drive better outcomes. Increasingly prevalent, the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care says this approach “redefines the relationships in healthcare by placing an emphasis on collaborating” and serves to “promote the health and well-being of individuals and families.”
Leveraging family-centered care allows for a more human experience for everyone and creates greater trust for a smoother care journey. I envision the utilization of the family-centered care model increasing throughout the industry as health system leadership works to implement new technologies within their facility designs. This can be supported in large part at the point of care by implementing a digital engagement strategy that incorporates touchpoints throughout the care journey for improved experiences and outcomes.
Digital Engagement Platforms Guide and Support Patients
Technology is reshaping how consumers access healthcare services and communicate with their providers. From accessing “Doctor Google” to gain insights on what may be ailing us to connecting through a myriad of available digital front doors and making online bill payments, we live in a digital-first, self-service world. Therefore, when patients and families visit facilities for care, the design has to fit this ethos in order to drive engagement, collaboration, and comfort. Patients of all ages are more likely to interact with a system that’s intuitive and familiar. We need to make it easy to ensure the best level of engagement and create a sense of control for patients every step of the way.
Hospitals can be both intimidating and confusing. Some medical centers cover multiple city blocks, causing navigation challenges for first-time and repeat patients alike. Medical campuses often change over time and each new unit or building can disrupt a patient’s previously known path. Navigating the floors and hallways can be equally daunting and add to an already elevated stress level. Consumer-accessible digital wayfinding solutions develop a clear route to guide the user through the navigation process step by step, creating a sense of comfort and control for patients and loved ones at first encounter. Building floorplans are overlaid onto a private, intuitive Google Maps-type interface, allowing users to have a sense of familiarity while gaining contextual information regarding their location and destination. Through interactive maps or directional displays, digital wayfinding solutions foster the independence that is required to manage your health. It’s subtle but it matters.
Once acclimated, a digital engagement platform can guide the family throughout their journey. Large-format video walls welcome arriving patients in a lobby, atrium, and common areas with healing and relaxing imagery that can be placed in rotation with other messaging throughout the day. Common content for signage in common areas includes population health-focused messaging such as reminders to schedule wellness visits, information on getting vaccinations and screenings; seasonally-focused messages such as details on flu shots or managing the heat; and program promotions for at-risk populations that reinforce the system’s commitment to supporting health at all times.
For outpatient visitors, location-specific digital signage solutions in waiting rooms can provide wait times, staff bios, related services, and relevant patient education and discharge content. By proactively providing the answers to the frequently asked questions, stress is reduced while self-efficacy is built. For hospital staff, it is worth noting that each of these endpoints can be easily managed from a central content management system.
Design Health Systems According to Patient Comfort
In the patient room, an Interactive Patient Care System (IPS) transforms the latest smart TV technology into a communication hub for education, empowerment, and, of course, entertainment. Back-end integrations from a range of health information technology (HIT) including the EHR, dietary, engineering, and facilities, allow access to directed patient education, meal ordering, room controls, and service requests conveniently through the device of a patient’s choosing, including a traditional pillow speaker, a hospital provided tablet, or a personal device paired to the system. Again, by providing access through the easy and familiar, system usage increases as families become more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment during an unsettling time.
More advanced IPS systems include additional communication endpoints beyond the TV. The set of HIT integrations can be leveraged to communicate information directly to the patient, family, and staff through a digital whiteboard and to the clinician through a digital door sign. These implementations are designed to build trust and allow each party to remain on the same page throughout the care process. For example, such tools can be set to include the patient’s schedule for the day. This information shows the patient and family what to expect, how to prepare for their daily activities, and where and when key elements are taking place. Through these insights, patients know when they’d like loved ones to be present without the nurse providing a manual rundown.
The IPS also provides advantages for overworked and resource-constrained staff. By automating repetitive tasks such as documenting patient education in the EHR or updating dry-erase boards and offloading non-clinical tasks like adjusting room lighting and heat or ordering a meal, nurses have the opportunity to be more efficient, gain additional time with patients, and practice at the top of their license. More importantly, with less “drudgery,” job satisfaction is increased and employee turnover is decreased.
Digital Engagement Encourages Human-Centered Care
Rising consumerism and increasing competition in healthcare have created a demand for quick access to the information and experiences desired by the patient. Additionally, technological advances have also changed the way providers want to access information and deliver care. Every step of the care journey is essential as healthcare teams strive to deliver high-quality outcomes, reduce avoidable readmissions, and build long-lasting relationships with patients. A comprehensive digital engagement platform incorporated into facility designs helps a healthcare organization stand out as a provider of superior, high-quality, family-centered care.
Matt Goche is the Chief Executive Officer of Uniguest. He brings extensive technology and cybersecurity background to Uniguest with a track record of growing revenue and achieving business results. Since Matt joined Uniguest in 2016 as Chief Operating Officer, later as President, and now as Chief Executive Officer, Uniguest has dramatically grown revenue, expanded the employee base, acquired marquee companies, and moved into new markets with new product offerings. Uniguest now has 15 offices across the globe and supports a customer base of over 20,000 customers.