Inclusion and equality are important in all environments, especially when it comes to healthcare settings.
With 14.6 million people across the UK reporting themselves as having a disability, healthcare environments need to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, people with mental health conditions or those with visual or hearing impairments, to ensure their services remain accessible. These spaces are increasingly using technology to make sure these groups receive the same high-quality healthcare experience as others.
Technology for independence
One way to promote equality in healthcare environments is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be independent.
“Providing tools such as interactive displays and accessible visitor management systems in areas such as GP receptions and waiting rooms, gives people the chance to check themselves into appointments or access information, without having to ask for help,” says Mark Atkinson, sales manager at Universal AV, audio-visual service specialists, “These technologies can be particularly valuable and of comfort to people with social anxieties, where having to interact with others could be a deciding factor when choosing whether to attend an appointment or not, or for those who have communication difficulties which cause them to be non-verbal.”
Technology for information
Those with hearing or visual impairments often require assistive technologies to help them navigate around a space and, when it comes to healthcare environments, there are several things which could lead to these groups feeling excluded if not carefully considered.
“Places such as hospitals and doctors’ surgeries often use audio announcements to give patients information and directions. High-quality microphones and speakers, as well as acoustic wall and ceiling panels to absorb echoes, are important, and these audio solutions must be set up correctly to ensure announcements can be heard clearly by all listeners,” says Atkinson, “Digital signage is also a great solution for those with visual impairments. Content on digital signs can be easily adjusted and QR codes can be added which users can then scan to open the sign on their device. This would allow them to magnify, rotate and highlight content as they require, and even have text read out loud to them using text-to-speech, to ensure that they can find the information they need.”
Technology for communication
One of the biggest barriers to inclusivity is when an environment is not set up correctly for communication, something which healthcare professionals rely on to inform and treat their patients.
“Communication solutions, such as induction loops, are easy to implement and can really elevate visitor experiences. In healthcare settings, these devices help to make patients with impairments feel more comfortable” says Atkinson, “For people with limited mobility and who may find accessing appointments harder, video conferencing is a great option which allows patients to speak with doctors from their own home, and can often help save time, and the stress of an in-person appointment.
“All spaces should invest in audio and visual technologies to help keep their services accessible to all, but in healthcare environments, this inclusion is even more valuable and makes a huge difference in ensuring patients are receiving the care they need.”
Signage can be operated on-premises or in the cloud, allowing information to be controlled across multiple devices regardless of physical location, so it’s essential to train staff on how to use the system. This ensures information can be changed quickly and easily when needed, keeping the information displayed to patients up to date.
Placement is key
Atkinson says, “The placement of digital signage is a key factor for ensuring it is effective. Any screens should be at eye level, where possible, and away from bright lights and windows that may cause glare or obstruct the screen.”
However, every patient has different needs which may alter how they interact with digital signage, or why they need digital signage to assist them. For example, patients with limited mobility may need screens to be at a lower level, to allow them to read the information comfortably or scan QR codes more easily.
“When creating content to display, it’s best to carefully consider the audience and adjust accordingly,” says Atkinson, “For example, patients living with learning disabilities may find large amounts of text confusing, so it is better to use a combination of text, icons and images, such as arrows, to help display instructions. Another consideration should be the use of colour, as those with impaired vision may find certain colours more difficult to see.”