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Connexient was founded with a singular, driving vision: to develop and deliver a true turn-by-turn indoor navigation experience that would be as intuitive and useful as that which billions of users enjoy with mobile navigation apps in the "outdoor" world by companies like Google, Apple and Waze. Over the last few years, we have worked very hard - and while we are by no means finished - we have been able to achieve that vision.
The short answer is simple: it's the only thing that really solves the problem.
Connexient's vision and commitment to the goal of indoor navigation came from our founders deep experience and understanding - born of 20 years developing and implementing wayfinding signage sytems in hundreds of hospitals at GDS, Inc. - that the complexity and scale of hospitals and healthcare networks pose wayfinding challenges such that nothing other than "blue dot" navigation will actually solve the user problem. Large medical centers encompass millions of square feet, of interconnected buildings and associated parking options, and campuses can have dozens of buildings or more. In total, they are truly labrynthes on an epic scale!
Maps and directions alone - even with a blue dot indicating a user's indoor position - simply are not good enough. Only true turn-by-turn navigation, where the user is guided at every step and moment of their journey can keep users on track all the way to their destination. Without that, frustration quickly sets in and patients and visitors will revert to the current wayfinding solution: the next staff member that happens to walk past them. It doesn't matter if that is a nurse or a neurosurgeon, they are going to have to walk that person to where they are going!
This is an important question, and one where there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace. Here are the key features in what Connexient defines as true turn-by-turn indoor navigation. Not suprisingly, you will find the same capabilities in all of the leading outdoor navigation apps. That is what a user expects and will require in order to find indoor navigation to be intuitive and useful.
This is essential. Hospitals are simply too complex - and the external references too varied - to ask the user to read and understand a map and correlate the blue dot to where they are. The driving principle of blue dot navigation is that the user does not need to understand or even care where they are. They simply need to continuously understand that they are on the correct path and heading.
In outdoor navigation, this is called the "Birds Eye" view. Anyone that spent years using in-car navigation systems before using Google Navigation for the first time knows why this is so important. Navigation is about what is next. The straight overhead map view constricts the user to a box of where they are now, and is a relic of map reading, not navigation. In navigation, the user must always be focused on the next landmark, turn and decision point.
Rich, accurate maps and step-by-step directions are very important as part of an overall digital wayfinding solution, but they have nothing to do with navigation. In a navigation UX, information must be reduced to what is critical - which is the exact instruction delivered at the right moment when approaching the next decision point in a route. Everything else is noise. That requires careful synchronization of prompts and guidance with users current and dynamically changing location. Audio / voice prompts are a useful option - that can even eliminate looking at the screen - but must be user and admin configurable in a hospital environment to ensure they are not disruptive.
No matter how good and precise the navigation UX, users will get confused and miss turns or other errors from time to time. It is essential that in these moments that the user is prompted quickly and can be guided back to their route - or recalculate and re-start their route. If this does not happen, users will lose confidence rapidly and abandon the navigation app (and go back to that carbon-based solution walking past them!).
Finally, external references - "visual landmarks" - are very useful to assisting users if they get confused and reassuring them as they progress on a route. Once again, this often has very little to do with what is important for map reading. What matters is not where you are, but rather what you see.
A critical part of the MediNav deployment process is our wayfinding survey, where we systematically record and add into the app visual landmarks that users actually sees as they walk through a building. In lobbies, atriums and open areas, there are shops, artwork, fountains and so on that can be particularly valuable to orienting the user. In interior hallways, there are signs, doors, cross hallways and so on. But the key is at all times the landmark reference in the app must be exact, clear and synchronized with the user's current visual viewpoint.
All of these elements must be woven together into a sequence of UI events that are intricately choreographed with the user's location and on-the-ground experience of his or her route . The user does not need to understand or read a map - which is an entirely different and much more intensive cognitive process - or even understand where they are. They just follow the route, blue dot and prompts without having to think. That is when you know it is a navigation user experience.
Connexient's MediNav incorporates and coordinates all of these features into the delicate dance of navigation. We believe and our experience has shown us that it is a fundamentally different experience from "blue dot wayfinding", and it the only way to actually reliably guide users through complex facilities and avoid frustration that leads to abandoning the app. In other words, it is the only thing that works.
So while we would be the first to say that our navigation UX is not perfect, we are confident that it is the most complete, sophistated and intuitive one available today. And we are committed to continually advancing and refining it.
The final, defining pass or fail test of any navigation UX and solution, of course, is does it get you there? A great UX is not enough: it must be reliable, accurate and current. To deliver that requires intense focus on the execution of the other two critical components: navigation-quality indoor positioning and navigation-quality maps and data. Those will be the focus of Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.
Any one that has ever been to a large hospital medical center - or worked at one - understands intuitively the very real and negative impact of poor wayfinding on Patient Experience. Patients and Visitors are already stressed, and the added frustration of getting lost only creates more of it.
We have heard from our clients over and over how a large percentage of the comments in HCAHPS surveys are about problems patients and visitors had with parking, finding their way, not being able to find their car after their appointment is done - and on and on. We also know that over 40% of patients and visitors that enter a hospital get lost! So it is a real problem with big impact.
Patient Experience itself is often perceived as a qualitative area that does not translate into direct cost vs. benefit analysis, however. But that is changing. Healthcare networks across the nation have started to realize in recent years that Patient Experience can and does have a very direct impact on the bottom line.
This study by Accenture provides some great data points and analysis on that. The study concluded, for example, that "hospitals that offer a superior patient experience can expect to achieve 50% higher margins - better than they can achieve by cost cutting alone.
There are many other streams of ROI that Digital Wayfinding can deliver, including reducing missed and late appointments and improved staff productivity. We will have more to say on that in our next blog. But it is powerful to see how big an impact something as 'fuzzy' as Patient Experience alone can have on the bottom line!
Last week, we zeroed in on how we work with Google Maps to deliver true end-to-end, outdoor + indoor maps, directions and navigation. This partnership allows us to make - for example - the complex challenge of parking simple for the patient or visitor arriving at a large facility or campus. The second part of this blog will address the next two common challenges of Wayfinding and Navigation that afflict almost all patients and visitors - and how we have integrated Google Maps to solve them.
The key to this, once again, is our ability as a Google Maps for Work Partner to:
We will focus here on four examples.
While Google knows and maps the world around us to an astonishing level of detail and accuracy, any facility manager that oversees a large campus knows that they often fall a bit short in keeping this data current and complete. The reasons are simple.
Luckily, as a Google Maps for Work Partner, Connexient can apply its professional mapping services to add these critical details. We can even add things like pedestrian routing and navigation to get users between buildings on appropriate paths rather than roadways.
As a trusted mapper and partner, we can also work to help update the base Google Map itself so that errors in the maps that might affect all users - not just those of your apps - are corrected.
Either way, Connexient is there to make sure it is right, because we know that The Map Really Matters.
While it may seem simple, Campus entry points and gates can and often do present a confounding element to campus navigation. On some campuses, such as the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, gates are secured and specific gates are restricted to specific types of visitors. Or, at other campuses, different gates are frequently open or closed depending on the day of the week or the time of the day (e.g. there may be only one gate open in the evenings or weekends).
Whatever the reason, if you end up trying to enter through the wrong gate, not only will you be turned back, but all your routing & navigation will be wrong from there. Failing to address it results in a total failure of wayfinding.
MediNav's Campus Wizard - launching in August - solves this problem by leveraging our knowledge of your facility and campus and presenting the user with a very simple wizard to identify which type of visitor they are. And, our Time of Day Exclusions automatically check whether or not a designated gate on a route is open. If it is not, then we can notify the user and automatically adjust their routing.
Many campuses and networks - like the National Institutes of Health - have shuttle systems that are a key service and solution for patients, visitors and staff. Knowing these shuttle schedules and stops - and when and where the next shuttle is arriving to take you where you want to go - is a critical component of Digital Wayfinding.
MediNav's Shuttle Tracker provides an elegant, totally integrated solution for the Shuttle systems. We can integrate and support:
When you combine this with our indoor mapping and navigation, we can now connect the dots and provide a real solution end-to-end. Currently, a user inside a building can easily check their shuttle stop and time of arrival for the next van. Upon arrival to their destination on a hospital campus, they can use inside navigation. This includes a time to destination estimate to know when they need to leave to catch their shuttle. Coming soon, we will take a step further and - just like our Parking Planner - recommend the best shuttle location and van for the user based on selecting their final destination and tell them when they have to start walking to catch it.
Making those kinds of complex problems easy for the user is what indoor + outdoor, end-to-end Digital Wayfinding with MediNav is all about.
When it comes to Network-Wide Wafyinding, the challenge is a little different. Google knows the outdoor world, and we can rely on Google to get the user their with 100% reliability (OK, 99.99%), incorporating traffic information to optimize the driving route and providing multi-modal options (e.g biking and public transportation).
The problem that real world users face fall into two areas.
Accurate and Complete Data
All of the network locations - and particularly the locations of affiliated physicians, caregivers and resources - are often scattered around in different data warehouses and resources on a Healthcare Network's Web site, if they are available at all. There is rarely, in our experience, a "source of truth" or process for consolidating and validating such data in a large organization. It is just too complex and, until now, there was no pay-off for doing so.
Given this, users normally must resort to Googling a particular physician, clinic, laboratory - whatever it is - and hope that the name they have matches what Google has. And if they do, more often than not what will come back is a list of names and locations to choose from, mixing together not just alternative locations but also caregivers and resources that may have nothing to do with your Healthcare network.
So the result is confusion and frustration for the user. For the Heatlhcare Network, besides a poor user experience, this can also mean literally driving users to resources outside of your network! So it's a lose-lose situation.
MediNav addresses this by integrating all of your network locations and affiliated caregivers and resources into one directory. The user can then use one simple, elegant search and filter UI to drill down quickly and easily to what they are looking for and be sure that is the right person or place and right location. For the Healthcare Network, of course, this ensures that you are keeping the patient or visitor in the network.
We have also found with our clients that this becomes an invaluable resource for staff. Now, rather than having to go back to their desk and search through different databases, staff can have the right information available on the go at their fingertips to provide to a patient, make a phone call or even navigate to get there.
Outdoor + Indoor
If the user now wants to get to that network location, of course, MediNav provides the end-to-end, outdoor + indoor maps, routes and navigation to get there. Often, a patient or visitor will be starting from inside the hospital and then moving on to their next appointment. Let's look at this as an example. MediNav will:
Thanks to our Google Maps for Work partnership, we can also leverage Google's rich real-time data on Traffic Conditions, or provide options for Public Transportation -incorporating train and bus schedules, or let them know when they need to leave to get to their destination on time.
In the future, we will do much, much more with this rich dynamic data that only Google can provide, to give users even richer and more useful information and options that will reduce late and missed appointments and give our clients visibility and leverage to optimize your resources. But that is the topic for another blog!
If you would like to learn how end-to-end, outdoor + indoor wayfinding and navigation with Connexient + Google Maps will benefit your organization and users, please contact us!