Wayfinding helps Abbott Northwestern patients navigate 2.7 million square feet

By | March 12, 2020

Staff at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, part of health system Allina Health, both based in Minneapolis, know that coming to a large hospital in the city creates anxiety for most patients. It is difficult to know where to park, where to go once you park or which exit is closest to the location you are going to, among other things.


The Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus is 2.7 million square feet and encompasses many buildings. In addition, patients are expecting more from healthcare, based on their experiences with other industries. For example, Minnesota’s Mall of America and State Fair both offer wayfinding systems.


To help its patients find their way around campus, Abbott turned to wayfinding technology vendor LogicJunction, part of Purple Wifi.

“We selected them due to their high-tech platform, which requires fewer beacons to power the experience that uses electromagnetic fields, and their flexibility in evolving their platform to meet our needs,” said Chris Dufrense, director of information services for digital consumer and employee experience, at Allina Health. “The issue of finding your way at a large campus is not new and we have worked to address it in many ways through the years with internal signage, maps on our website, etc.”

“Partnership with facilities, operations, design/construction, information technology and marketing are critical for the success of the initiative.”

Chris Dufrense, Allina Health

But Abbott wanted to find a more modern way to help with this problem, especially since the vast majority of people now have a mobile device. So the Abbott team approached the digital team at the Mall of America to learn more about how they implemented real-time wayfinding there. Abbott also worked with digital transformation services company, Avia, to understand what systems existed in the space.

“A request for proposal and vendor demos were conducted to ultimately select a vendor and determine cost,” Dufrense explained. “We brought a recommendation to implement this functionality to our Digital Executive Steering Team and approached our Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation to explore funding for this work. The foundation saw the need for this and supported the implementation of this effort.”


There are many companies on the market today that offer mobile digital wayfinding technology and services. Some of these vendors include 22Miles, concept3D, Connexient, Etelu, Gozio Health, LogicJunction and Spectrio.


Abbott selected LogicJunction because of its flexibility to meet Abbott’s needs with the vendor’s platform, including embedding the wayfinding code-base into the Allina Health mobile app to prevent users from having to download a separate mobile app.

“The wayfinding solution is integrated into our Allina Health mobile app, AllinaHealth.org, and multiple internal workflows,” Dufrense said. “We are continuing to evolve the integrations into workflows and plan to include wayfinding in appointment reminders, pre-registration phone calls and more. We have developed internal processes to ensure the experience is updated when construction/maintenance occurs and when new departments are created/closed in our EHR.”


Abbott has only been live with the new technology for a few months. The quantitative metrics it has started to monitor include the number of routes completed, which is a measure of how many users opened the app, searched for a location and then completed the path to that location. Another is user feedback upon route completion, where users are presented with a 5-star rating scale and a free-text field when a route is completed.

Other quantitative metrics being measured include: App download and number of sessions, and patient experience, where Abbott is monitoring experience scores via the HCAPS standard survey.

Qualitative measures Abbott is measuring include employee feedback, including anecdotal information on how often employees need to help a patient/visitor navigate the hospitals. During the Beta period, patients and consumers have reported positive experiences, giving an average star-rating of 4.6 out of 5. Comments are short and simple, like “Great” or “Perfect.”


“Ensuring deep connections across internal teams is critical,” Dufrense advised. “Partnership with facilities, operations, design/construction, information technology and marketing are critical for the success of the initiative and to enable a seamless experience. Embedding the experience within your broader experience also is key – including it in your mobile app, website and patient portal.”

Ensuring the organization selects a vendor that can enable the functionality without access to WiFi and cellular data once the experience loads is also key, since hospitals are often older buildings with interference that can impact data connectivity, he added. The use of Bluetooth (BLE) beacons, he concluded, is critical to enabling a seamless experience.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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