The digital world

Digital walls and digital signages create an engaging experience for patients and enable a more productive work environment, says Rita Dutta

Digital walls, Engaging experience, Engaging experience for patients, Digital  healthcare, Healthcare, Kunal Bhattacharya, Digital signage, AI, AI technologies, RJB Architects

The Government is pushing towards a digital India and there is a strong thrust for digitilisation in healthcare. In this context, digital signages and digital walls are becoming popular in healthcare.

So, what are digital signages? They are a series of media display screens placed throughout the healthcare facility.  Says Manu Malhotra, founder partner, RSMS Architects, “Digital signage includes interactive kiosks, touch screen portals, digital information boards, custom video production, private label television and interactive way finding tools and video screens.”

Some of the primary uses of digital signage in healthcare settings are way finding, patient tracking and entertainment. It also helps to improve patient satisfaction, staff morale, and creates a safer and more productive work environment.

Says Kunal Bhattacharya, director, healthcare planning and design, RJB Architects, “Digital signage is a means to interact with patient party and could be used at various levels. Firstly, it can be used for gathering information about the services offered by the hospital on a case-specific level including technical details and cost involved. Secondly, for a list of available doctors in various disciplines and their time-slots for appointments. Thirdly, for fixing up appointments at the patient's convenience through interactive digital kiosks. Fourthly, for checking of queue status during appointment in OPD and for checking status of diagnostic reports including printing them by logging into appropriate web.”

He adds that one main advantage of digital signage over other conventional methods of information dissemination and patient service is the amount of space saved if digital boards had to be replaced by physical boards. Digital screens can scroll and show a lot more information than an equivalent sized physical board,” says Kunal.

Digital walls, on the other hand, serve a much broader communication goal at a more generic level. These could be used for:
• Listing out all the services offered by the hospital
• List of all doctors
• Continuing Medical Education (CME) showing details of various procedures or preventive health behaviour
• Sharing success stories of the hospital that helps in building patient confidence
• Sharing data regarding critical parameters of clinical outcome that defines quality of service of the hospital.

Digital walls and signages are more popular in airports, automobiles industry, hospitality, healthcare industry, transportation systems and education.  According to Kunal, “Digital walls are very popular in commercial buildings where advertisements fetch a lot of revenue and give mileage to the advertiser. Digital signage, on the other hand, is more popular in transport industry led by aviation and railways in particular where millions of people have found it more convenient to register bookings or check in by themselves rather than stand in a queue of hundreds of people for hours and put up with the inefficiency of the person at the disbursing counter.”
Digital walls and digital signages forayed into the healthcare industry in the early 21st century with the aim of bolstering the communications between the hospital and the patients, visitors and employees- thus reducing time, money of marketing teams and human resources departments.

“Apart from being extensively used in lobbies, waiting areas, cafeterias and patient rooms, digital walls and digital signages are being used for external purposes as well for way findings, marketing and display of the care services provided by the hospital. Even a digital wall can serve as an appealing elevation feature at night,” says Manu.

The benefits of digital walls and digital signages are galore. For the patients,  digital walls and digital signages speed up patient intakes, decrease perceived wait time, ease anxiety about appointments, share important health-related information, help patients find their way faster and create a connection to staff and communicates with loved ones.

The benefits for staff are that they reduce strain on human resource, provide consistent and recurring staff training, organise internal info, client intakes, rotation, and care, empowers staff,  decrease hallway congestion and deliver emergency information.

The benefits for healthcare organisation are they promote services and products, highlight awareness initiatives, create a cohesive brand, capture patient data, decrease cost of marketing materials, and promote referral marketing programmes. They also aid in cost reduction and enhance operational efficiencies.

So what is the technology used behind digital walls and digital signages? Says N Praveen Kumar, principal architect, Tru Designs, “Digital displays are essentially flat panel screens that rely on different technologies to present multimedia content to an audience. The most common are LCD screens which use liquid crystal cells to display content and LED screens that are based on Light Emitting Diode technology." Digital displays on their own can’t do much. They need some type of media player hardware and software that can render content for them.

Digital displays are also available as touch screens. These displays are used in interactive applications, such as way finding or information kiosks. Touch screens use various technologies to detect interactivity. Most touch screens come equipped with a touch-sensitive layer right out of the enabled.

"Digital displays use technologies such as LCD, LED, projection and e-paper to display digital images, video, web pages, weather data, restaurant menus, or text. They are used as a network of electronic displays that are centrally managed and individually addressable for the display of text, animated or video messages for advertising, information, entertainment and merchandising to targeted audiences," adds Manu.
What is the approximate cost of having digital walls and digital signages? "A 1.8 or 1.9 mm pitch has over 1,382,000 pixels for every 5 square meter  wall and one could pay anywhere from $17,000 to $25,000 per square meter," says Praveen.

"In the past, typically every major hospital design project started with the same discussion: How many beds do we need? This conversation is changing and bed count is no longer the primary design driver for many hospitals of the future. Many health systems are shifting their efforts to improving care quality, create more efficient processes, and enhance the patient and staff experience. With the passage of time, digital walls and signages are making their mark in the healthcare industry as well,” says Praveen.

What are the factors propelling the popularity of digital walls and digital signages in healthcare? The constantly changing nature of the healthcare environment is a natural fit for digital signage, point out experts. It is easy to update and provides employees, patients, and visitors with relevant real-time information, thus improving patient experience, enhancing the communication and marketing efforts.

"Healthcare cost has been shooting up, while manpower cost is the largest pie in a hospital's expenditure. Human errors have led to great losses to various healthcare organisations; and lack of transparency in communication results in high patient dissatisfaction and lack of healthcare education among patient population renders good healthcare null and void quite often hurting reputation of caregivers. And, finally, failure to adequately reach out to the patient population regarding the USP of a hospital results in loss of business. All the above factors are making digital applications in healthcare more and more popular as service providers," says Kunal.

In India where most of the hospitals are overcrowded creating chaos and sense of restlessness among patients, technologies like digital wall and digital signages have a lot more to offer. "Digital walls and digital signages shall play a very important role in increasing the efficiency of a hospital by significantly reducing manpower and care time. Thus, it would also reduce the running cost of the hospital and enable it to sustain and provide care effectively even under the Government schemes such as Ayushman Bharat,” says Manu.
Others also maintain that digital walls and signages will further gain popularity in India. “ We believe that in near time everything would get digitalised and that’s when healthcare sector would have to up their game. We do feel that having a cloud file of every patient would help better treatment along with advance health history,” adds Manu.

As healthcare sector embraces digitalisation, the digital signage industry is sure to pick up on new trends which might include:
Increased personalisation: Interactivity will get even more individualised. Responsive and automated content could be directed from sensors or data flows that improve the point of contact.

Recognition: Sensors, cameras, and voice recognition can be used to aid the user further. With the right amount of accuracy, users can be greeted by name and offered services that suit their needs.

Digital signage and AI: With more accuracy and data processing comes a better understanding of the users. Smart digital signage could even end up replacing human-to-human interactions altogether.

The pace of the development in the digital signage industry is impressive, regarding both hardware and software and thus the future looks bright, exciting, and more inclusive – for hospitals and users alike.
In the near future, digital technology may improve the patient experience by providing real-time access to medical knowledge. “Imagine an AI-powered, bedside virtual care assistant for an impatient patient that can answer or direct queries to the most appropriate person at the hospital. This virtual assistant can answer the patient’s routine questions about diagnoses, expected recovery experiences and times, and daily medication schedules. In addition, the virtual assistant can act as a data repository for the patient’s medical history, test results, consultation times, appointment schedules, and even stories from other patients with a similar diagnosis. Such accessible AI technologies are starting to exist and can help empower patients and their families,” says Praveen.