Few of us would want to get our healthcare in the cavernous, emotionally sterile barns that are today’s airport terminals. (We definitely wouldn’t want to face a security checkpoint before we could get our care.) But there’s a fair amount of technology, data use and workflow that hospitals could intelligently borrow from airlines, as well.
Here, in no particular order of priority, are some approaches hospitals could borrow — or use more effectively — from an airline terminal:
* Kiosks: Sure, hospitals use kiosks, but far too few hospitals bother. And when they do use kiosks, it’s largely about billing and perhaps appointment setting/confirmation. Why not create a “patient card” with the ability to display a patient’s care status on a kiosk (“Jane Smith is in imaging as of 5:32 p.m.”) and seed all of the main thoroughfares of the hospital? This would be of enormous help in orienting caregivers and for that matter, staff.
* Big-screen displays: Yes, obviously, patient information can’t be displayed as casually as flight departure/arrival updates. But if a patient gets a code (tied to the card I mentioned above) patients and caregivers could know where to go and when. In the ED, smaller displays could show room-bound patients what activities are planned for them in what order. (Note: Check out John’s post on other uses of Digital Signage in Healthcare for similar ideas)
* Wandering helpers: When airlines are particularly busy, they sometimes send out members of their staff to wade into lines and help passengers get where they are going. Equipped with a modified tablet accessing the same information as the kiosk, these hospital helpers could be stationed in high-traffic areas and available to help patients and family get where they need to be to participate in care. For patient-specific information, people could present their “patient card” and learn about the status and location of the specific patient.
Along with technology-based approaches like these, I’d also like to see hospitals offer a terminal-like retail strip for visitors, many of whom spend huge blocks of time on the campus and don’t have a chance to eat properly or get small errands done. But that’s for another story, perhaps. In the meantime, I think we need to look closely at how airlines marry people flow and technology — it could be a good thing for the industry.