A new smartphone app called BWH Maps, released by the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub (iHub), makes finding your way around the hospital easier than ever with real-time indoor navigation to more than 300 destinations on the main campus.
With functionality similar to consumer apps like Google Maps, BWH Maps uses Apple and Android smartphones’ native capabilities — including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — to pinpoint your exact location inside the hospital, track your movement on the map with a blue dot and deliver turn-by-turn walking directions to your chosen destination on the main campus. The mobile app is free and available for download by employees and the public.
“The Brigham is a big place, which can make it challenging to navigate. Whether you’re visiting a sick loved one in the hospital or you’re an employee trying to get to your next meeting in a hurry, the last thing you want to worry about is figuring out how to get there,” said Mark Zhang, DO, MMSc, iHub’s medical director. “Having an easy, reliable and fast tool in scenarios like these can be a godsend.”
With the release of BWH Maps, Brigham Health is the first organization in the Partners HealthCare system to support real-time indoor navigation on mobile devices. Earlier this year, iHub launched the BWFH Maps mobile app, which provides the same functionality for Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital.
Aaron Pikcilingis, an innovation specialist at iHub and one of the project leads, said the value of the app was quickly proven whenever he and iHub colleague Rintaro Sato, an innovation and operations analyst, would walk around the main campus to test out and finetune the app.
“Pretty much every time Rin and I were out testing the app, we’d wind up using it to help five or six people who needed directions,” Pikcilingis said. “It’s amazing how the app makes it so easy to assist someone even if you don’t personally know where their destination is.”
Kelsey Craig, volunteer program and training coordinator in the Office for Sponsored Staff and Volunteer Services, sees tremendous potential for the app among her volunteer corps. For the past two years, all college volunteers enrolled in the Medical Career Exploration Program have been required to complete a rotation as wayfinders, a role in which they make themselves available in high-traffic areas of the main campus to proactively assist anyone who looks lost.
Until now, volunteers would direct patients and visitors using a printed map containing some general information about key areas of the hospital — such as the locations of entrances, bathrooms, amenities, elevators and some larger clinics — but it can’t compare to BWH Maps’ robust database of destinations, which include all patient-facing areas, most conference rooms and more.
Craig has begun training volunteers to use the app when providing directions. Volunteers will also show patients and visitors how to download the app themselves so that they can take advantage of the location-tracking feature and turn-by-turn directions on their own smartphones.
“Being able to pull up directions on their phone will be a game-changer for our volunteers,” Craig said. “They will be able to provide an answer more quickly and efficiently, leading to a better experience for our patients and families. In addition, I think the fact that volunteers are using a device they’re already comfortable with, rather than rustling through a packet of papers, will allow them to feel more confident helping someone — which in turn leads to better customer service.”
Building on Success
Since beta testing the BWH Maps app this spring, the iHub team has added more destinations to its database, improved the reliability of the location-tracking function and added an “offline mode” feature that enables the app to continue providing directions even if the device loses its internet connection.
The smartphone app builds on the success of a browser-based predecessor, maps.brighamandwomens.org — an effort previously led by Josie Elias, MBA, MPH, former iHub program manager for Digital Health Innovation. The website, which allows users to plot out directions in advance, remains available and will continue being updated by the team.
The most popular destinations accessed in the browser-based version have been clinics that use Medumo, a digital health tool that sends patients text messages with appointment reminders and other important information — including directions to the clinic via maps.brighamandwomens.org — in advance of their visit. The iHub team hopes to build a similar functionality with the BWH Maps mobile app and is beginning to explore opportunities for future integration with other Brigham apps and operations.
In addition to internal collaborations with departments such as Facilities and Patient Access Services, the iHub team worked with wayfinding technology vendor LogicJunction on both projects.
“Everyone who works here wants to be helpful, but sometimes you just don’t know the answer when a patient or colleague asks you how to get somewhere,” Zhang said. “This app is a great way to empower all of us to provide the best experience.”