Hospitals have grown exponentially in size and scope over the past few decades, expanding their research and educational facilities, outpatient services, and introducing specialized treatment centers in oncology, orthology, prosthetology, and more. Unfortunately, much of this growth has been unstructured and poorly incorporated into existing hospital design, leading to unintuitive entrances and corridors for newly constructed wings, unmarked doors and passageways, and staircases and hallways ostensibly leading to nowhere. And these problems are only compounded by a monotony of design and dÃ©cor that can make hospitals feel maze-like, while time-critical diseases lurk around every corner like the fabled Minotaur. Ultimately, these design flaws have a directly negative impact on patient care and resource allocation.
Confusing hospital designs can pose an especially troubling problem for first-time patients, who face great difficulty in locating procedure rooms, doctors' offices, and even entire facility wings due to increasingly abstruse layouts. The struggle to locate their doctor's offices can even be significant enough to cause patients to abandon the appointment entirely. In fact, the Health and Social Care Information Centre estimates that missed hospital appointments now cost UK hospitals upwards of £700 million a year. Almost unbelievably, in 2014 patients actually missed more appointments than they kept (100 million and 80 million, respectively). This is an escalating trend, and missed appointments have already increased 8.2% from last year. And this is not only an issue overseas; the Wall Street Journal has also reported on the flaws in U.S. hospital design and the strategies that could potentially combat this obstacle to public health.
Outside of complete architectural and decorative overhaul, it seems as though the most promising solution to baffling hospital design is, unsurprisingly, technology. In particular, mobile technology—from tablets and smartphones to wearable tech like Swipe Sense—has shown great potential in addressing many of the chronic administrative problems that have arisen from modern medicine infrastructure. Given that 64% of adults in the U.S. use smartphones – and that figure is only likely to increase with time – mobile technology solutions can completely bypass archaic and proprietary IT protocols to make integration seamless and intuitive.
One such solution driving this initiative is a new app startup called Locatible. Riding the wave of crowd-sourced navigation solutions like Waze and Google's speculative indoor navigation additions to Maps, Locatible is poised to make a splash in healthcare administration by providing both doctors and patients with an easy shortcut to get around hospitals: their smartphones. Locatible draws on analytics long used in retail environments to determine customer traffic patterns. By modifying the application, Locatible can use this technology to statistically isolate problematic design flaws in hospitals around the world. The app then provides information in a feedback loop with users to provide valuable, real-time insights into facility navigation.
On paper, the applications for Locatible are endless. Doctors and staff members could use the app to stay on track or offer better directions to visitors, while the visually impaired or otherwise disabled could tap into its powers to find their healthcare providers more easily. What's more, Locatible offers personalized information about people's schedules – including updates and reminders – that could be useful for administrators to organize meetings and keep track of productivity.
In support of this concept, Locatible has reported that 74% of hospitals that use mobile technology are more efficient than their anachronistic counterparts. As a new wave of technological integration crashes down on the shores of healthcare, it's likely that statistic will rise steadily up toward 100%.
About the Author:
Iris Stone is a freelance writer, editor, and business owner who has written on a range of topics. She has experience covering content on medicine, healthcare, and career training, as well as education. Iris is also interested in science and mathematics and is currently studying to be a physicist. Check out her Google+ Profile.