INSIGHT on wayfinding at Ystrad Fawr Hospital

Written by on 14th November, 2012

Typically, most hospitals struggle to show people clear way finding and access. Who knows of a hospital that you can visit, without being disorientated and lost on the first visit? Does it have to be this way and what is the cost to both the service users and the NHS?

We were driven to investigate by stories we had heard first hand, how an emergency service vehicle struggled to find access to the right entrance and how an elderly patient missed an appointment, as she couldn’t find the main entrance. These stories amongst others became the reasoning that made us want to help. They needed insight.
Our business ultimately, is to connect users to services, in all manner of situations, from the brand of a bank, to retail service. We alleviate risk for businesses and service providers and we use design thinking to do it. We start with real people, real needs and issues, like this one. Our approach is always to come alongside the organisation to help, support and find a way forward that is both practical, budget aware and moves towards a positive outcome.
We asked these questions, which helped to inform the reasoning that led to our proposal.

What is the cost to patients and the NHS, when its service users can’t easily access or navigate a hospital service?
The time and energy it takes for patients to get into the hospital, and not actually find their way.

The confusion of finding their way to a department, and the distress of a missed appointment that have often been several months in the waiting. A missed appointment costs the hospital the consultant fee/salary, administrative costs in appointment letters can phone calls. It costs them their reputation as unable to treat and care for its patients. It may cost the NHS more for treating a problem that wasn’t looked at sooner. These are all risks that compromise good quality healthcare. Negative press is easy to stir up, especially when the feeling that a lot of money has been spent on a new development, with little thought to how the various users are going to find their way in and around it. Missed appointments, delivery vans blocking access, ambulances driving around and around… it all paints a picture which shouts out for help. Our help.

How do we reduce cost and risk to the hospital and its users?
By taking a closer and more in-depth look at the problems, we used service testing methods that revealed the real issues. Then we used workshop tools to address costs involved, cost savings, reputation, service, value and worth to the hospital.

Who are hospital service users?
    •    Elderly patients attending outpatient appointments
    •    Pregnant women needing the maternity ward
    •    Delivery drivers delivering medical supplies to maternity unit
    •    Hospital staff going to work
    •    Emergency services taking patients to the emergency centre
    •    Other direct and indirect users

How did we identify and represent those users?
By creating persona profiles.

What are the different problems when they try to access and navigate the hospital?
To start with we accompanied two service users; a delivery driver in his company vehicle and a pregnant woman and her partner driving in by car. Both had very different issues when accessing the hospital and navigating through it.
We documented a customer journey map with photos and noted the dialogue as they thought aloud. These revealed enough problems and issues to warrant further problem solving exercises if the hospital were willing to get involved. Our proposals involved suggestions for wayfinding both internally and externally; signage reworking and a map redesign.

What information do they have, prior to their visit, that would help them find their way?
Letters; generated by a booking system get sent out to patients to indicate the department and specific room to attend. These are useful once you are in the building and if you can understand the wayfinding tower. A map doesn’t accompany those letters.
Other service users may attempt to use a sat nav to find the building (no use as the roads have been completely changed in the area). They may look online to download a map and search for access. The current maps are illegible, blurred and based on hospital plans that have changed since the completion of the building.

How did we help them with way finding information?
We showed the beginnings of a redesigned section of the map that is used to navigate to the hospital birthing unit.

The insights revealed have been put forward to the capital project director in the planning department and the public involvement officer and are being considered for future hospital projects.