Improving the hospital waiting room experience with UXD principles.
My patient experience of patience...
With my mind now tuned to the principles of User Experience Design, I was seeing opportunities for making better things everywhere - like waiting to have a blood test.
Elements such as user flow, pain points, error prevention, information feedback and signal-to-noise ratio were at the forefront of my mind.
The "Landing Page": After winding through labryinthine corridors you enter the waiting room...
The hospital waiting room - or a landing page.
There was no direction or structure upon 'landing' in the waiting room. The main focus of the design was either the refreshments kiosk or a huge TV.
Neither of which helped patients answer the first question that came to mind upon entering an over-crowded waiting area:
A user's immediate response to the 'landing page'.
Having no idea how long you'd be waiting for was a major frustration with every patient.
But worse, many people entirely missed the intended 'user flow' of the waiting area.
Above the TV is a digital sign with incrementing numbers, and you were supposed to take a ticket then wait for your number to be called. A lot of people completely missed these rules, and only noticed the sign after already waiting for (and so wasting) fifteen minutes.
This was a common reaction while I was waiting:
No prevention of user error.
Indeed - where do you take a ticket from?
Hidden behind waiting patients, away from the number-counter sign itself, was the ticket machine:
Hiding the 'call to action'.
Taking stock of the current scenario, you can sketch an 'intended user flow' by taking a birds-eye-view of the waiting area:
Birds-eye-view of the room, and mapping a 'user flow' of sorts.
Which bared no relation to what was actually happening:
How patients really moved through the waiting room.
So what improvements can be made?
First, specify the user need then make hardware changes to serve it:
Gathering, and serving, user need.
This kind of system feedback is simple - average the number of increment clicks over x minutes.
Even with no other changes the scenario for a newly arrived patient would be hugely improved:
An MVP of improvement.
A quick bit of arithmetic - using the feedback provided and comparing against your own ticket number - would give you a calming, helpful idea of how long you'll be waiting for.
Your user need is satisfied.
And by changing the layout of the physical space, the user flow would be greatly improved so the rules and directions were not overlooked:
Iterating improvement by physical changes to the room.
Patients have to stop and walk through a gate, at which point they cannot miss a sign (free from the surrounding noise of wall posters etc.) with the 'call to action'. They take a ticket, see the screen with the feedback, and calmly wait.
But why stop there?
With the feedback loop's data, the ticket machine itself could be improved to know what number ticket it was issuing next. All of this data could then be recorded minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
What times, what days, what weeks, are the busiest? What patterns are emerging?
Feedback can then be available to the prospective patient.
A simple app mockup shows how someone needing a blood test can check the waiting time first, and maybe even plan their visit:
To the next level - an app for waiting time status.
From confusion and frustration:
To a helpful service for better waiting:
Want to see more?
Go back to see my course project from my General Assembly UXD course, where I applied my passion of context awareness to the issue of food waste that costs the UK public £12.5bn a year.
Or continue my story to learn how I captured my childhood imagination with an app to keep kids engaged with long car journeys.
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