Whether you are trying to get to the hospital for testing, have a doctor’s appointment at an MOB on campus, or rushing to visit a loved one who was just brought to the ER, wayfinding for the healthcare field starts when you exit your vehicle.

Hospitals have paid a lot of attention to the internal signage and wayfinding of their spaces, but more often than not they leave it at the entrance door with either no continuing signage or a lack of continuity in message.

How could this happen? Ownership of the spaces and the funds attached to them are typically the culprits. Parking garages can be owned by a group other than the hospital or they might be funded from a separate budget. Rarely does the budget for signage and wayfinding tie into the level of the interior spaces. The quantities for signage in a garage are also often short-changed. Canopies and walking bridges organically appear over time and tend to cover existing wayfinding, or the team forgets to add the needed signage and wayfinding to these updates.

Yet signage vendors are also to blame. Several signage companies focus only on interior or exterior signage, leaving the transition spaces of covered walk ways and parking garages left to whomever will claim them. The more sophisticated signage companies offer both interior and exterior options and integrate the brand image into both. Internal signage companies tend to focus on interior designers, or the in-house staff that needs to maintain the continuous updates. Exterior signage vendors focus on architects, engineers, and landscape architects, and code with less emphasis on how the exterior signage will translate to the interior.

The ideal situation is to have a cohesive package that integrates the facility’s brand and that clearly leads patients, vendors, and visitors to where they need to go, plus signage and that ties interior spaces and exterior spaces together with imagery that not only makes the journey easy but stimulating.

On a final note, remember what ever goes in has to come out. So plan for the exit strategy with your wayfinding and signage with as much effort as getting everyone to where they need to go at the beginning.