The Value of Efficient Wayfinding Design in Hospitals

It is not hard to imagine, that bad wayfinding design may lead to additional operational costs. The question is more how to estimate them. Hospitals find it hard to quantify these costs that come as a results of flawed wayfinding design in their buildings. It also means it is problematic to define the ROI of an upgrade in wayfinding design. But is it really that hard to quantify these values? 

We defined a calculation model based on 19 variables to quantify the value of efficient wayfinding design. As a result, the hidden costs become transparent and the ROI of an upgrade of the wayfinding system or any other intervention, becomes quantifiable as well.

This enables the possibility to offer performance based wayfinding design; a serious business model innovation.

Can we quantify the costs of flawed wayfinding design?

Can we quantify the costs of flawed wayfinding design?

Just copy the title of this article and paste it into 'Google-Search' and you will find many referrals to some research back in 1990 that was conducted by Craig Zimring who is now a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Architecture. Many companies involved in wayfinding design, signage, indoor navigation, etc, are referring to this paper to proof the value of their products and services. This paper suggests that the costs of flawed wayfinding design for a tertiary hospital in the US are estimated at 220.000 dollars per year. Really?

There are hidden costs for patients being late at their appointments or even missing them. Or costs because your staff is too often engaged in giving directions to patients who have no clue where to go. But how do you quantify these costs?

Zimring's scientific paper focusses on both non-monetary and monetary costs for just one specific hospital. He also includes costs of buying and replacing new signs, next to lateness and giving directions while not being part of staff's job descriptions. Unfortunately, the numbers in this paper are not explained in detail which makes it hard to make general conclusions and define KPI's to measure the effect of (in-)effective wayfinding design.

Eyedog has developed a calculation model based on fundamental research, to quantify these costs in detail. This model calculates the annual costs due to flawed wayfinding design for a hospital or medical center based on the input of 19 parameters / KPI's.


Quantifying Flawed Wayfinding Design

We simulated the annual costs for a hospital with the following (most sensitive) parameters:

  • 250.000 annual outpatient visitor
  • 600 in-patient beds with an average occupacy rate of 90%

We used the following (most sensitive) KPI's:

  • 8% of all visitors/patients is asking for directions
  • On 10.000 outpatient visitors, 35 of them are missing their appointments because of wayfinding issues. That is 0,35%
  • On 100 outpatients visitors, 2% of them will be late to their appointments because of wayfinding issues

The results are shocking: the monetary costs of flawed wayfinding design reaches 250.000 euro / year. That is 407 euro per bed and almost 1 euro per outpatient visitor. These costs are a result of interrupting staff and lateness of outpatient visitors or patients missing their appointments. 

We analysed multiple scenarios, both positive and negative, and we concluded, that based on the above mentioned paramaters, annual costs due to flawed wayfinding design for a hospital with 250.000 annual outpatient visitors and 600 beds is somewhere between 150k and 450k euro. Whatever simulation we did, the results were pretty shocking.

That is a lot of money and shows immediately the value of good wayfinding design. But, what is good wayfinding design? And how can we measure whether or not, an upgrade in wayfinding design will lead to better KPI's? Audits and surveys can be biased, so how can we get some hard data? Preferably data that relates directly to parameters that enables us to quantify annual wayfinding costs.


Mobile Wayfinding usability

We are continuously measuring whether or not, people will find their way with Eyedog Mobile Wayfinding without consulting a staff member while navigating to their destination.  A mind boggling 93% found their destination without asking for help, which is a number that is hardly outperformed by any alternative wayfinding system both digital or analog. What if we use this number as a start to quantify the value of patients that are able to find their way easily, without consulting anybody? Then we might be able to offer No Cure No Pay Wayfinding.


Pay per Performance wayfinding design; who is in?

Considering a cost per bed of around 407 euro / year of about 1 euro per outpatient visitor, would hospitals be willing to pay pay for for every patient that will find their way without asking staff for directions, and will arrive on time? Hospitals would already have a return on investment when one set of navigation instructions will cost less than 93 cents. After all, the chance somebody reaches the destination without interrupting staff or having wayfinding issues that will make them late, is 93%. 

The wayfinding design industry is not used to work with data and measure the effect of wayfinding design. By going digital, we get tons of interesting data and - since we defined KPI's - we can quantify the quality of the wayfinding system. In fact, we can move towards a situation where institutes only have to pay when a visitor successfully reaches their destination. Just pay for results that solve the hospital's problem.

Imagine, if a hospital could just pay 25 euro cents for any directions that is loaded on a patient's mobile screen? Or even less. And if the visitor gets lost, simply pay nothing. No Cure, no Pay. Pay per Performance.

Business Model Innovation is around the corner. Are you ready for that?

Interested to learn more on quantifying wayfinding design for your hospital? Contact us