Healthcare Wayfinding, It’s about behavior, not signs

Published on: February 9, 2015

The problem is very clear – too many people are getting lost finding their way in health care facilities. The knee-jerk response – “we need a new wayfinding program” or, “we need more signs.” The implication is that the solution is about hardware. It’s an interesting anomaly at a time when the health care industry has become so focused on behavior, both users and employees, when addressing most other aspects of health care facility design, management and delivery.

Health care facilities are complex environments where users are typically experiencing inordinate levels of stress. Adding more words, on more plaques in more places will most likely compound the problems. The real challenge is to better understand how a patient or visitor receives information about their pending doctor appointment, medical procedure or other interaction with the facility.

Wayfinding, and the signs that guide people to their destinations, must be a part of the total healthcare experience. Alan Jacobson, president of ex;it, an east coast environmental design consulting firm and long-time strategic partner of the GNU Group, has captured the concept with exceptional clarity in his Touchpoints of a Visit to the Doctor. GNU embraces this strategic approach and it has resulted in significant breakthroughs when strategizing wayfinding goals for our clients. Ex;it’s Health Care Journey diagram shows the integration of all of the components of an effective wayfinding program including physical elements, communications and human interaction. There is no question that this multi-faceted approach is the way that healthcare facilities will be making sure that getting lost is a thing of the past.