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Be Gone, Apples: Digital Signage in Healthcare Keeps Doctors within Close Reach

A peek into the HIMSS Intelligent Hospital Pavilion.

Digital signage was hard to find at the HIMSS 2014 conference and exhibition. Though “digital” was the talk of the town, mobile (or mHealth) took center stage, leaving digital signage neglected even in presentations about personalized and participatory health experiences across digital channels. When asked about the medium, several HIT veterans would nod slowly and confirm it is a great solution for wayfinding, relieved they could understand the term and its uses.

This reality might come as a shock to those cozily within the digital signage sphere, who take for granted the general public’s awareness and appreciation of digital place-based point-of-care networks such as AccentHealth and Health Media Network. Players in this niche are well aware of the benefits that digital signage healthcare networks bring to physicians, patients and advertisers. Doctors may deliver customized messaging to receptive patients waiting for their appointment, patients are entertained and educated by informative and engaging content relating directly to their visit/health, and advertisers are able to reach customers in the trusted confines of their doctors’ offices (network-permitting).

That being said, the limited awareness of digital signage benefits among the 1,200 exhibitors and 37,000 healthcare professionals at HIMSS is excusable due to some of the major changes their industry is dealing with. September 2013’s Omnibus Rule updates several acts including the HITECH Act and HIPAA by introducing more demanding compliance requirements for breach notification rules, patient rights and business associates.

The sector is also attempting to create interoperability standards for information exchange across multiple channels and players, and is approaching privacy and security through PPT, short for people, processes and technology. Another hot topic relates to realizing the HITECH Act’s meaningful use initiative, one that makes healthcare providers active and responsible parties in educating and encouraging the public to become more involved in electronic access and communication.

On second thought, with these major drivers in mind there is no excuse as to why digital signage is not top of mind with regards to HIT infrastructure and digital communications strategies. A presentation about the WEDI Report supported this statement when comparing its initial goals in 1993 to those of the 2013 update. With patients now at the center of the healthcare ecosystem, objectives of the new Report include better care and quality at a lower cost, decreasing waste while increasing efficiency and improving on patient safety and empowerment. One of its recommendations to meet these aims is patient engagement, meant to deliver the right message to the right person in the right place at the right time. Sound familiar, digital signage vendors and operators?

Yes, wayfinding is a great application of digital signage in hospitals and medical clinics, as illustrated by this article in The Wall Street Journal. Yet when physicians are faced with the task of turning patient activation into engagement, digital communication meets patients where they are and can be adapted to their lifestyles. Patients want to be connected with their physicians. The convenience and ease of use of mHealth solutions is a stepping stone, but will not be fully effective until integrated with digital place-based networks in medical facilities – and vice versa.

The patient-centric healthcare system is just like the viewer-centric realm of digital signage; or really, one and the same. Keeping the doctor away is no longer a patient nor physician’s goal. Efficient and effective communication is easier than ever and the biggest winner here is your health.