ASID: Wayfinding in healthcare
Effective wayfinding strategies in healthcare settings begin before the patient or visitor arrives at the hospital. With planning and understanding of the patient’s and visitor's journey to the hospital campus and their way around the campus, difficulty in navigating through a hospital can be avoided, which may decrease the stress and anxiety in already stressful and sometimes traumatic situations.
With multiple parking lots and entrances, it can be difficult for anyone new or returning to a hospital campus to understand where to go. After parking and finding the correct entrance, patients and visitors are faced with a maze of corridors (most of which are similarly finished) with unfamiliar names and acronyms. Navigation can be more difficult for people who speak English as a second language. Unfortunately, new patients and visitors are not the only people facing spatial disorientation while navigating large hospital campuses. Returning patients become lost in the maze of corridors, as well as patients taking medications.
There are multiple strategies that can help in hospital wayfinding. Symbols are an effective communication tool for breaking down language barriers, and with consistent use on signage and directional guides, symbols can help in the navigation of hospitals. In predominately Latino communities, health anthropologists advocate for Spanish text to be placed above English on signage. This strategy not only makes signage easier to understand but welcomes the population to the hospital. Colors and patterns are also effective design methods to identifying different spaces. Department entrances can be treated in similar methods either with a paint color, floor pattern, ceiling detail, or combination. The key to success is consistency so that visitors understand they have reached the appropriate destination.
If visual cues are intuitive and effective, visitors may spend less time asking staff where to find places such as restrooms. This frees up staff to effectively do their jobs rather than guiding visitors around the hospital. A simple direction to find the room with the grey wall could be all the direction a visitor needs to find any restroom in the entire facility. Hospitals spend time and money training their staff to be courteous to visitors to help earn higher patient satisfaction scores. The hospital staff is instructed to physically walk a patient to a destination rather than give directions. Nurses are often scolded for taking time to transport patients to ensure their arrival at proper destinations. Valuable hospital resources are being wasted from the difficulty in navigating the facility.
Technology is an integrated part of daily life. People are connected to technology with cell phones and mp3 players. There is an opportunity for technology to be integrated into wayfinding for hospitals. Metrorail in Washington, DC, has downloadable maps of the rail system for your iPod. Why not have information about the hospital be just as accessible? Imagine visiting a hospital's Web site and downloading a map to a phone or other mobile device. That map could direct you to the correct parking lot, the appropriate entrance, and even to the correct department within the hospital. Key areas such as welcome desks, waiting areas, registration spaces, nurses’ stations, dining spaces, meeting areas, and restrooms could be accessible to everyone. Staff could receive more detailed interactive maps upon initial training in order to reduce time orienting to the hospital. Technology has revolutionized daily life and the care system; it could also be utilized to revolutionize the hospital experience.
- Specialist Clinics Wayfinding Guidelines: The Outpatient Journey
- Wayfinding Symbol Usage in Signage for Healthcare Facilities by Chrys Gakopoulos
- What’s New in Wayfinding? Developments in Hospital Signage by Randy Cooper and Craig M. Berger
- Promoting Effective Communications – Language Access Services in Health Care by The Joint Commission
- Universal Symbols in Health Care Workbook: Executive Summary; Best Practices for Sign Systems produced by Hablamos Juntos and the Society for Environmental Graphic Design with support from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation