The past year has seen a rapid transformation in the healthcare sector. Within weeks, practices and facilities in all medical specialties went into virtual environments to accommodate their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, ten months into the pandemic and with vaccinations on the horizon, it’s time to stop the band-aid solutions and build long-term virtual experiences for your audiences. Why not begin with a virtual tour for your hospital?
For hospitals especially, virtual tours are an important component of that experience. They come with a number of advantages, from easing the fears of prospective patients to closer community involvement.
Virtual reality tours, it turns out, are no longer a fad. Today, 50% of adults on the internet use them to help in their decision-making process. In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits of virtual tours for hospitals, what tour stops you should include in your own platform, and what considerations to keep in mind as you look to engage your audience and ease their anxieties.
The Benefits of Virtual Tours for Hospitals
There are plenty of advantages your hospital can leverage through a virtual tour. Among them, three stand out as especially important for your patient acquisition and satisfaction, as well as your community engagement strategy.
1. Increase Comfort for First-Time Patients
It’s no surprise that, especially the first time they visit a hospital, patients are stressed. They don’t know what to expect, don’t know the people taking care of them, and research has shown that this uncertainty can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks.
No virtual tour is a magic bullet to solve this anxiety. It can, however, play an important role in calming these fears. If your patients learn about your facilities, from the front lobby to the area where they’ll be treated, they’ll develop a feeling of familiarity that calms their nerves and ultimately makes for a more relaxed visit.
2. Help Patient Families Get to Know the Place
Of course, the patients’ secondary stakeholders matter as well. They’ll want to know what to expect, where to park, and where to pick up some flowers or gifts as they visit patients. For hospitals with long-term care and rehab stations, they might also want to play a role in deciding whether this facility is right for their loved one.
A virtual tour can help them get to know your hospital’s most important areas for them. That way, by the time they stop by for the visit, they’ll feel comfortable, and are more able to focus on their loved ones’ well-being.
3. Drive Engagement in Your Local Community
Finally, don’t underestimate the impact a virtual tour can have on your local community. No hospital, of course, exists in isolation. Before they become residents in your rooms, prospective patients are just members of a larger community wanting to make sure their healthcare needs are taken care of if needed.
Promoted the right way, the virtual tour can play a role in that process. It can be leveraged as a type of ‘virtual open house,’ inviting members of your community to tour the stations and rooms from the comfort of their living room. That engagement will play off significantly in the long run.
8 Tour Stops Every Hospital Virtual Tour Should Include
Understanding the why behind these interactive tours is only the beginning. The how begins with understanding exactly what you should prepare to showcase.
An important disclaimer: ultimately, every hospital’s situation is unique. The ideal number and topic areas of your stops may differ from the next hospital down the road. That said, these 8 must-have virtual tour stops are a great start for your planning stage.
1. The Lobby
It’s the first thing your visitors and patients see, and you’ve probably spent significant resources to plan and design it. That makes it the first stop on your tour, providing a comforting feeling for users as they virtually ‘look around’ and check out their surroundings.
2. The Gift Shop
For most hospitals, this is a natural stop right after the lobby because of its close physical proximity. Both patients and prospective visitors will appreciate a closer look and this stop, along with both visual and textual descriptions of just what kinds of items they can buy here.
3. The Cafeteria (and Other Food Stops)
The third natural spot in the tour goes to basic nourishment. This gives you an opportunity to show off your main public eating space, along with the types of food available. If you have other food stops for patients and visitors, you can feature them either via supplemental media or, if significant enough, their own tour stop.
4. Rest and Relaxation Areas
Your hospital likely has a number of spaces specifically designed to make both patients and visitors feel more comfortable. These might include:
- Courtyards and outdoor gardens
- Children’s (or siblings) play rooms
- Art exhibits
- Library or resource centers
- And more.
Each of these, ideally, should get their own virtual tour stop. That helps communicate your patient and visitor-centric approach, an important part of the communications strategy for many hospitals.
5. The Emergency Room and ICU
When a patient has to come in short-notice, what can they expect? The emergency room is definitely an area, you’ll need to stage before including them as a stop. It also pays to show your intensive care unit as a separate stop, providing patients peace of mind that they will be well-taken care of.
6. The Nursing Station
You likely have one of these on every floor and unit within your hospital. Use your virtual tour to highlight exactly what they look like, with a description of what exactly patients can expect. Including this stop also leads you naturally into the next must-have:
7. A “Regular” Room
Showcase one of your patient rooms. This is likely a spot that most of your users will have an active interest in, as they will sooner or later find themselves in one of them either as a visitor or a patient. Pick one that presents itself especially well, but make sure you don’t misrepresent what the typical patient experience is like.
8. Any Specialty Areas
Beyond regular care, your hospital likely provides a number of specialized services for prospective patients. That might include:
- A Maternity ward
- A catheterization laboratory
- An X-Ray and imaging center
- Same-day surgery rooms
- And more.
Again, the goal here is to not just provide peace of mind, but introduce distinction. Adding stops for your specialties helps you stand out from other facilities looking to offer (but unable to show) similar care.
What to Consider What Planning Your Hospital’s Virtual Tour
As you plan through your virtual tour, a few important considerations can help you maximize the potential benefits mentioned above and throughout this guide. These considerations include:
Comprehensive is good, but don’t overdo it.
You definitely want to showcase the various areas of your hospital. At the same time, adding too many stops may lose the focus of your audience. For instance, showing a patient room is important, but you probably won’t need to show every variation of patient room your hospital offers.
Provide supplemental information where possible.
Every tour stop offers the possibility for supplemental media, such as extra photos and videos offered in a library or as hotspots. That allows you to add additional info without distracting from the core message or visual appeal.
Honesty is crucial.
Yes, your virtual tour is designed to show your hospital in the best possible light. However, it’s a thin line to walk between accomplishing that goal and misleading prospective patients and visitors. Be mindful of that line as you stage rooms, plan shoots, and build the tour.
Build in natural conversion points.
Based on their experience with your tour, your audience might want to contact you or learn more about the hospital in other ways. Accommodate their needs by adding call-to-action buttons throughout the tour that naturally guide your audience towards those points.
Build an intuitive flow.
Not all of your users will start at the beginning, but most well. It’s best to organize your tour in a way that mimics their physical experience in the hospital. Start with the lobby, move to the gift shop, and only then begin to move into the patient and treatment areas.
Find the right virtual tour software.
You’ll find plenty of vendors looking to sell their virtual tour services to you. Not all of them are well-prepared to understand and accommodate the nuances of your industry. A virtual tour partner who has experience working with hospitals will be vital to build a successful experience.
We’d love to help with that last item. Concept3D has spent years building and optimizing virtual tours in a variety of industries, including healthcare. Our experience has allowed us to become a reliable partner for many hospitals, while our intuitive platform has helped them better engage and communicate with their audience through interactive maps and virtual tours
If you’re looking to build a virtual tour for your own hospital, that level of partnership is crucial. Contact us to start the conversation today.