Mary Ann Badavi
Mary Ann is a UX designer, content expert and noodle lover based in Washington D.C.
emergencyroom-v2.jpg

Redesigning the Emergency Room Experience

May 2018

Experience Design, Visual Design

As part of AIGA DC’s SHINE Mentoring Program, my mentor Sela Lewis and I worked on a Design for Good project around the topics of immigration, race and gender equality, and homelessness. Underinsured people—many of whom fall into one or more of the above categories—often use the emergency room as their primary form of healthcare. However, the emergency room is a stressful, confusing experience, especially for non-English speakers or non-literate people.

Initially, I thought I could solve this problem by making the emergency room easier to navigate, with accessible, universal signage. But after conducting user interviews and reading health journals, I found that many patients’ main frustration with emergency rooms is not the confusing wayfinding, but the lack of communication around wait time. I decided to design an experience that addressed that pain point though interactive digital signage.

Wait Time Screen

Wait Time Screen

One of my user interview subjects, who accompanied her friend to an emergency room, remarked that "timing estimates must be challenging with triage-type work but it would’ve been helpful to at least be checked in on or have some kind of roster going so that we knew my friend hadn’t been forgotten."

This large digital screen addresses that exact concern. It shows the current wait time, as well as a roster of patients and where they currently are in the process: from triage, to waiting, to in treatment. Many interview subjects said that they didn’t mind waiting, as long as they understood why. Therefore, the screen also shows the severity of cases of the patients currently being seen: if you’re there for a more mild case and you see that there are multiple severe cases currently in treatment, you’re less likely to feel frustrated about waiting.

Developing the Wait Time Screen

Developing the Wait Time Screen

The main Wait Time Screen went through many iterations as I tried to figure out how best to visually display the severity of patients’ cases. It was only in the second attempt that I realized it would be helpful to show patients moving through the emergency room process. Sela and I then created the visual identity, picking an earthy color palette with a humanist typeface to avoid the feeling of a sterile hospital.

Re-Check In Process

Re-Check In Process

It’s entirely possible that if you’re sitting in a waiting room for 3 hours, your pain could get worse—but patients often feel uncomfortable communicating that to hospital staff. I created a secondary check in screen that allows patients to re-check in if their pain has changed, which would move them higher up on the priority list.

This concept also stemmed from the idea that marginalized groups often aren’t believed when they talk about their pain. For example, doctors only recently started to acknowledge the severity of women’s period cramps, though many doctors still dismiss them as minor aches. This screen would give patients agency over their own pain.

Additional Explainer Screens

Additional Explainer Screens

I created four additional digital screens explaining what causes wait time and answering common questions about the emergency room. Patients could swipe through at their leisure as they waited. I also included a simple directional screen with some of the more common destinations in hospitals.

Next steps for this project would include translation capabilities, a more interactive and extensive map, and a check-out screen where patients can log their satisfaction.