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Improving Wayfinding in Healthcare Through Service Design

Case Study

Legacy Salmon Creek

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center
Touchscreen kiosk
People using a kiosk

The Problem

The experience of going to a medical center such as a hospital or physician’s office can be anxious, stressful, and confusing. Patients can get easily turned around, especially if they’re managing health issues that affect their cognitive or motor skills. The consequences can range from missing an appointment to a potentially serious or life-threatening situation. A good wayfinding system that is quickly and easily interpreted is of paramount importance to safely get people where they need to go. It is also important to recognize the wayfinding experience of patients encompasses the entire spectrum of services offered: from signage and maps, both static and digital, to staff and scheduling.

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington, recognized the limitations of their wayfinding system and consulted with Anthro-Tech and architecture firm Mayer/Reed to explore how to create an experience that better served their patients.

The Solution

Based on our research, we recommended Legacy Salmon Creek work to improve its wayfinding experience in three ways:

  1. Provide patients with better wayfinding instructions before arriving at the medical center,
  2. Better equip and empower volunteer staff to handle distressed or confused patients, and
  3. Improved static signage.

During testing, we found these specific upgrades had a greater impact in improving the wayfinding experience for patients and visitors than the installation of a digital kiosk.

After our research, Legacy Salmon Creek worked with Mayer/Reed to design a new static signage system and also invested in resources to further empower their volunteer staff. We also provided Legacy Salmon Creek with a set of best practices concerning digital kiosk design for any future considerations they may have.

Kiosk Design Best Practices

Make Kiosks Visible and Accessible

Place kiosks so they are visible to the typical flow of users and within their line of sight. Use big enough screens and fonts so that their purpose can be quickly determined while users are moving, without impeding general traffic flow.

Leverage Familiar Content to Help The User Succeed in Their Journey

Use terminology, naming conventions, images, and colors that are familiar to users and maintain consistency in terminology across channels of communication, including kiosks, directories, signage, websites and other informational materials.

Consider the Information That Users Need and Display it Up Front

Avoid introductory or splash screens that users will have to interpret or interact with prior to getting to the information they need. Provide users with content that is relevant to the setting or location where the kiosk is installed. Too much information may overwhelm or burden people during the decision-making process.

Optimize Locations

Avoid placing kiosks near entries or exits or in areas that users will pass through quickly such as hallways. Decision points such as lobbies and mezzanines are ideal for kiosk placement. At these locations people will have had time to adjust to their surroundings and will be looking for information to guide their next decision.

Content and Functionality Will Have to Provide a Service That Cannot Be Quickly Offered By Other Sources

If the ability to get information from other sources remains more efficient for users, they will continue to use these trusted sources over the kiosk. Additionally, avoid using kiosks near signs or directories that contain similar content to limit information overload.

Our Approach

This project consisted of two phases with multiple research methods. Our goals were to assess which tools, strategies, and services people use when finding their way through Salmon Creek, identify their main barriers, and understanding how wayfinding fits into the overall patient experience at Salmon Creek.

Phase 1

Intercept Interviews
We interviewed staff, patients, and visitors to understand their perspectives on the wayfinding experience through Salmon Creek and to identify pain points.

Shadowing Usability Studies
We observed participants as they walked through the Medical Center buildings according to scenarios constructed to test paths and locations identified as challenging to work through or find.

We discovered that the static signage system was not optimized to address the needs of patients. We also uncovered inefficiencies in the services provided to patients when it came to navigating their entire experience at Legacy Salmon Creek including scheduling, getting to the facility, parking, and finding their appointment.

Phase 2

Pilot Study of Prototype Static Signage and Low Fidelity Digital Kiosk
The Phase 1 findings informed the design of a prototype wayfinding system consisting of redesigned static signage and a mockup of a digital kiosk. This new system was piloted and again tested with interviews and shadow studies. Anthro-Tech focused on understanding the value of a digital kiosk for providing information to patients during their wayfinding experience.