– When Katie Logan began at Piedmont Health as vice president of experience, she was tasked with moving past traditional patient satisfaction measures and uncovering specific and positive patient experience improvements. Logan’s efforts led her down the path to hospital wayfinding apps.
Logan began the wayfinding project at the behest of Piedmont’s patients, she said in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com.
“For us, wayfinding was one of those opportunities that continued to bubble up as far as patient experience feedback,” explained Logan, who started at her post nearly two years ago. “When people walk into our hospitals or various ambulatory settings, they want to know where they go, what they must do, and how they get there.”
Offering patients directions is a pressing need at Piedmont, an expansive integrated health network with seven hospitals serving nearly 2 million patients. The Georgia-based health system also includes 19 urgent care centers, 94 physician practice locations, and 1,615 Piedmont Clinic members.
Because of this complicated web of clinicians and care facilities, Logan maintained that it has always been important that Piedmont help its patients navigate its hospitals by both providing literal turn-by-turn maps and by giving directions on how to manage the many clinicians within the network.
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Logan and her team wanted a wayfinding service that patients could easily access on their own. After identifying a solution from Gozio, Logan and her team implemented the wayfinding capabilities to help improve the overall patient experience.
The program includes many interesting and useful features, Logan explained. Piedmont’s vendor handles app updates, for example, eliminating any need for Piedmont to hire developers to update the tool to meet smartphone operating system advancements.
The app also operates using Bluetooth, eliminating any need for costly and difficult to manage WiFi support, Logan explained. And generally, selecting a wayfinding app – as opposed to other more concrete wayfinding tools – just seemed to make more sense to Logan.
“People are using apps and smartphones, so rather than thinking about kiosks and hardware that we had to maintain in the hospital setting as a way to enable wayfinding, we selected something that was portable and in our users’ hands,” Logan said.
Now that Logan and her team have adopted the tool, they are shifting their focus to rollout. How will patients know about the wayfinding app, or understand how to use the technology? Those efforts began by consulting the health system’s employees.
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“We took an internal launch to communicate that all of our hospitals and employees across the system should check it out,” Logan recalled. Providers were tasked with downloading the app, using it, testing its features, and offering feedback to Logan and her team.
The response was mostly positive, Logan explained. Health system employees tended to like the app’s interface and functionality, and largely offered small improvements such as correcting a clinician’s office hours.
Some employees pointed out that the app did not work well with older smartphone operating systems, a wrinkle Logan and her team are presently ironing out.
Logan is also currently at the start of the patient marketing stage of app rollout. She is beginning with smaller efforts and then tackling larger projects to promote the tool.
“Last week we launched signage and various things in the hospitals,” Logan explained. “Folks that are already on our campuses can now learn about the app.”
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These signs instruct users to text a unique code to a specific number, which then forwards users a link to download the app for free. Once patients download the app, they face prompts that explain the tool’s various functions.
“Once you download the free app, it gives you a walkthrough of all the features and the things that you need to know,” Logan said. “Everything from accessing the wayfinding to other functionality in there, including scheduling appointments, saving your spot at urgent care, and viewing emergency room wait times.”
Logan will also be starting efforts to transition patients who use Piedmont’s pre-existing app. An app update will upload the new app, which includes the wayfinding and other important features, onto users’ smartphones in lieu of the system’s old app.
Finally, this fall Logan will begin the larger campaign to drive wayfinding app adoption amongst patients who did not previously use a Piedmont app.
“We wanted to give ourselves some time to use it, get feedback, adjust content, make sure it’s working well and as expected,” Logan pointed out. “This fall we will be doing a larger push, marketing campaign-wise, to draw more folks in as users.”
The app improvements will not stop once it has been fully implemented and marketed. Logan looks forward to using the app’s analytics to determine patient feedback in addition to more traditional surveying and focus group methods.
“The great thing is we will be able to see the analytics and watch how people are using it,” she shared. “Of course, we won’t know who the users are, but we will see what functions they’re asking for and we’ll continue to refine that over time. We believe this will help us maintain a better relationship in the long run with our patients and consumers accessing Piedmont Healthcare services.”
Offering a centralized patient experience hub via a smartphone app is slated to improve the patient experience.
“There’s one too many phone numbers to call,” Logan said. “We are trying to bring it into one place, one entry point that then helps the person get to that next point of care or next step easily.”
Patients can access Piedmont’s many touch points in one singular location. When using their smartphone, patients can look to the Piedmont app.
“We’re meeting people where they are,” Logan concluded. “If you’re a desktop user you can be on a website. If you’re a smartphone user, you can, with one click of a button, pull up an app and have everything related to your experiences with Piedmont. We have both options, and we’re trying to create the best of both worlds depending on how you as the consumer want to access that care.”