Landmarks or distinctive pieces of artwork can also provide visual clues in wayfinding, or aid in backtracking out of a building. For example, including a sculpture at a corridor intersection is one option. Nodes, where multiple corridors come together, are good areas to include landmark objects. Providing a well-lit area with a distinct floor pattern, clear signage, and memorable artwork are all effective ways to plan a node. Figure 2 shows a tiled mural wall as a landmark feature to direct the patient to the reception desk.
You are here
Although the “You are here” signage maps in major intersections are helpful, how effective are they? I usually spend a good amount of time trying to figure out how I'm oriented in relation to the map. If those maps are a proposed solution, making sure they are oriented in the direction of travel is highly important.
With the evolution of GPS and radio frequency identification technology, an interesting alternative could be a programmed tablet computer that each patient is equipped with upon entering the facility. Through coordination with IT and other professionals, a user-friendly interface could be developed that directs patients via voice and visual commands as to where to turn to arrive at their appointment location. The tablet could then double as a patient education device during the waiting and examination process. Security, return, and cost would all be issues to work out, but having an interactive map could prove to be more effective than a paper map or signs on the wall.
Other proposed ideas might be to provide an application that patients can use on their smart phones or iPads. However, one thing to think about with technology is the patient demographic. Although many people are tech-savvy thanks to the evolvement of computers, there is still a learning curve and some patients may not be familiar with how to use the devices effectively. In this day and age, it's also important to provide maps on the healthcare organization's Web site since many patients will do research before their visit.
The “Ritz Handoff” system, based on the hospitality service of Ritz Carlton hotels, is another idea to consider. Implemented in one of The Center for Health Design's Pebble Projects, the system evaluates what would make the most exceptional customer service experience for the patient. One of the effective forms of customer service in this methodology is to break away from the traditional reception desk by providing “perches.” With roving greeters, patients can be quickly greeted by an employee and directed to where they need to be as soon as they step foot in the lobby. With many nurses taking the time to escort patients from point A to point B, a separate set of staff for these situations would be worth considering to reduce the amount of time the nurse spends away from the bedside. When a patient is approached by a smiling, helpful staff member as soon as he or she walks in the door, more than likely the patient's stress will go down and overall satisfaction will go up.
Developing the floor plan
The floor plan and overall circulation path is perhaps the most important component to consider when discussing wayfinding. After all, the fact that we have to plan for wayfinding tells us just how complex our environments really are. Although a degree of complexity is inevitable due to the wide range of healthcare needs and departments, the more simple the floor plan the better. This simplicity can be executed by having main arteries of circulation, curved walls that subtly direct patients, and perpendicular angles at turning points. Access to outside views through windows in the circulation path also is important for a patient to maintain a sense of direction. I'm sure we can all relate to the confusion that windowless walls and long winding corridors can create, and how easy it is to lose your sense of direction in those situations.