The Evolution of the Hospital Directory

An iconic line in automobile advertising states, “This is not your Father’s Oldsmobile.” It’s a classic slogan that dates back to a series of commercials in the 1980s, which urged people to reconsider what the brand Oldsmobile meant to them by taking a fresh look at how much the car had changed from the previous generation. 

It’s a compelling message and one that can be applied to another fast-evolving (although admittedly less ‘sexy’) product: digital hospital directories, now more appropriately referred to as digital information hubs.

Coincidently, when those car commercials were running, the first commercially available touchscreens were beginning to be made public. A few brave early adopters began installing directories using touch technology in their hospitals within a decade. But just as the cars of the 1980s bear little resemblance to today’s cars, those early directories bear little similarity to today’s models in either form or function. Thirty years ago, directories were essentially building maps, helping visitors and staff get from A to B. Today, they have become interactive information hubs that enhance visitors’ experiences.

Size matters: The Evolution Of Touchscreen Technology

Like other products with screens (televisions or computer monitors, for example), there are noticeable trends in directories from a physical standpoint—size being the most obvious. When these first touchscreens entered the market 20 years ago, screen sizes ranged between 15″ and 22″ (like televisions, measured diagonally), which evolved slowly. 

Even 8 – 10 years ago, screen sizes had increased only modestly, with 32″ perhaps the most common size for “larger format” touchscreens that found their way into shopping malls and other larger venues.  

Today that has changed, with 42″ – 55″ screens the most commonly installed sizes and 70″ and larger screens popping up with increasing frequency at much more reasonable price points than two or three years ago.

Touch technologies have also continued to evolve with touch films, applied to regular monitors competing with touchscreens, which have continued to employ increasingly more sophisticated but reliable technologies such as PCAP.

At the same time, those touchscreens are now some 40%+ thinner than those five years ago. Picture sharpness would be another attribute that has seen significant evolution, with HD replaced by UHD and 4K resolution with 8K on the way.

That said, software features and functionality are among the most significant changes in digital directories. Over the past decade, digital directories have moved from a means to locate tenants or destinations within a building to interactive digital information hubs for a building or campus. Now, the opportunity to provide relevant information to patients, visitors, or staff as they enter or move about the hospital is almost endless. 

7 Compelling Reasons to use Interactive Digital Signage in Hospitals

  1. Hospital amenities such as washrooms, food and beverage options, the location of the gift shop or pharmacy, and entrances to underground or nearby parking
  2. Live local transit information showing the arrival time of the next bus or train.
  3. Links to third-party data feeds showing news, weather, sports, or entertainment information.
  4. A neighborhood map showing local restaurants or additional parking or transportation options
  5. Inter-building connectivity. Many hospital layouts are complex, having grown by addition, and comprise many wings or buildings connected by long corridors, elevator banks, or underground or elevated walkways or paths.
  6. Accessibility features. Not just for the mobility impaired, but also for the visually impaired through the incorporation of headphone jacks and special keyboards
  7. Additional languages serve populations whose first language is not English, an increasingly important facet of our multicultural society.

Finally, while a great deal of the focus of directory information is naturally geared toward patients and their caregivers, hospital staff can also benefit from the information displayed on the directories. Along with a number of the features listed above, we have found that sustainability information reflecting efforts by building staff and management alike to reduce energy consumption or waste production generates significant interest and pride among those who work at the hospital. 

Similarly, hospital announcements such as welcoming new staff or displaying information about initiatives such as blood donor clinics, holiday food drives, or participation in Earth Day – foster a sense of community among those who call the building home for a good portion of their time.   

Today’s Interactive Digital Information Hub is not your Father’s (or Mother’s) Hospital Directory indeed!