Finding your way around Washington Health System’s Washington Hospital campus
has just become a lot simpler thanks to a wayfinding application for smartphones.
With Pathpoint doing the navigating, visitors can now just “phone it in” when they need to reach a destination in the hospital.
The free app, developed by East Washington resident Benjamin Marasco, 23, who is founder and chief executive officer of Pathpoint, came out of his experience as a frequent visitor to hospitals a few years ago.
The new mobile app, also called Pathpoint, is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones, and can be used by patients, visitors, staff, physicians and community members to find a patient’s room, hospital department or the nearest bathroom or ATM without stopping for directions or studying signs.
Users can also have the app remember the location of their parking spot.
The creation of Pathpoint’s wayfinding software came out of Marasco’s personal experience of navigating hospitals here and in Pittsburgh for a variety of tests and meetings with doctors when he was diagnosed for cancer at 19.
“I went under the knife for cancer,” he said. At the time, he was a sophomore at Grove City College where he was on the school’s swim team and was a residence assistant.
While his surgery was successful, Marasco said the time leading up to it was filled with contemplation as he considered “What’s life, what’s next, and what’s my purpose?”
But Marasco, who is fully recovered today, said the hours of contemplation and the time he spent shuffling from one appointment to another inside hospital walls, led him to the idea of a way to help others who need to navigate their way around hospitals.
He said Pathpoint, which is essentially a global positioning system, is designed with older patients in mind, although everyone in a hospital setting will find it useful. It’s also customizable for any hospital, he said.
The main goal was to make it as easy to use as possible, he said.
“I made it for Medicare-aged patients,” he said, adding that his 88-year-old grandmother, Georgia Nicholson, was the test person for a tutorial on the app.
“Yes, we’re a tech company, but at the end of the day we’re making this for 65-year-olds,” Marasco said.
WHS spokeswoman Stephanie Wagoner said Marasco worked with the hospital’s Patient and Family Centered Care group – volunteers who are real patients, family members of past patients and community members – in designing the app.
She said PFCC highly favored the app and saw it as a need at the hospital.
“Navigating an unknown building is difficult in itself, then you have the added stress of medical situations,” she said in describing the challenges of getting around large buildings.
“They know it’s a big issue,” Marasco said of the hospital’s decision to deploy the app, which has been in the works for a couple of years.
Marasco said he first met with WHS and Washington Hospital CEO Gary Weinstein a few years ago to discuss the feasibility of the system, then spent the summer of 2015 determining if it was possible. A year later, the app project swung into creation.
The free app is available on Google Playstore and Apple Apps by searching for “Pathpoint: hospital navigation.”
Pathpoint also launched its Facebook page last week, which can be access at Facebook.com/Pathpointhealth.
Marasco said he sympathizes with people who are asked to arrive for an appointment 15 minutes early, adding that he often needed the entire 15 minutes to find where he was going in large hospitals.
Pathpoint eliminates the confusion from the start of the destination search.
Once a person arrives on the hospital campus and opens Pathpoint on their smartphone, a dot displays their location. After inputting a destination, a line appears, charting their course at every turn. The app also provides detailed written instructions.
According to Marasco, hospital employees were being trained on the app before its release.
In addition to helping people find their way through the various floors and departments, Marasco noted that it can also be used by the hospital to find a patient who has escaped.
“There’s also the security issue; it can be used to track high-risk patients,” he said.
Marasco said he’s discussed the Pathpoint app with several other hospitals around the country.
If all goes as planned at Washington Hospital, he said, others in the hospital industry will probably ask for one to be designed for their sites.
“It’s one app for all hospitals,” he said, adding that it can be customized for each location.
He acknowledged that Pathpoint could also be adapted for use at non-medical locations like museums that feature different areas or departments on multiple floors of large structures.
“The applications are really endless,” he said.
Marasco, who earned a degree in finance at Grove City, said he’s happy with the career direction that Pathpoint has given him.
“It’s a fun place to be,” he said.
For more information on Washington Hospital’s Pathpoint app, access the Washington Health System website at www.WHS.org.