healthcare design trends

2019’s Most Notable Healthcare Design Trends That Can’t Be Overlooked

Published on: July 18, 2019

In 2015, the average hospital occupancy rate was only 62%. Much of this reduction can be attributed to the rising cost of traditional care, concerns over antibiotic resistance, facility mergers and acquisitions, and the increased focus on preventative care. For traditional hospitals and for most providers, that means wasted resources, empty beds, and a diminishing bottom line. 

To remain competitive, top healthcare brands are keeping consumers top-of-mind by increasing patient access and comfort, whether they’re going in for an outpatient procedure or staying for a longer term. That’s why the leading medical facilities are upending the traditional model of healthcare delivery in three major ways. Successfully implementation of these trends, however, hinges on a single fundamental element that cannot be overlooked.

Top 3 Healthcare Design Trends for 2019

The evolution of healthcare delivery is driving the top healthcare design trends for 2019 and beyond. And you might be surprised what all the trends have in common: expert wayfinding design. Let’s take a look how. 

#1: Distributed locations  

Forward-thinking healthcare facilities are becoming more decentralized in that consumers may go to several smaller, more intimate offices for their treatment rather than a monolithic medical facility full of offices for every specialty. Urgent care clinics, outpatient care facilities, ambulatory surgery, and labor and delivery centers are all a result of innovations in patient-first healthcare delivery models. And, increasingly, these hubs can be found in surprising locations—like retail centers. 

It goes without saying, then, that helping to get people to their medical appointments on time and without undue hassle requires a new wayfinding strategy. Rather than implementing a custom-designed sign program within a single building, healthcare brands need to convey wayfinding information in a way that can be recognized across multiple locations. 

Stanford Children’s Health tackled this challenge by partnering with an expert signage design firm to audit and implement “on-brand” interior and exterior sign standards for over 120 locations across the San Francisco Bay Area. Now, whether patients visit a pediatrician in Mountain View or a specialist in Concord, they know they will be greeted by familiar visual cues to get them where they need to go. This kind of effortless accessibility is key to retaining the engagement of healthcare consumers today. 

#2: Community anchors

To reach the patient population most in need, it’s an emerging best practice to position healthcare facilities as an anchor within a community rather than an outlying service. These anchors offer more than just medical care; they provide well-living classes and programming to help address local health issues from smoking to nutrition. It’s a comprehensive approach to healthcare, purposely designed for economically-challenged and underserved communities.

As community anchors, healthcare facilities need to be designed with the community in mind—and that’s just what Ravenswood Family Health Center in Palo Alto did. With the primary mission of improving community health through culturally-appropriate, integrated healthcare, Ravenswood first step was to implement a wayfinding signage program targeted for multilingual and Limited English Proficiency patients. Leaving behind confusing medical terms, they instead used universal iconography on their signage, helping everyone in the diverse community feel welcomed and secure. 

#3: Life integration

Life integration is a concept that goes beyond building design; it encompasses the whole healthcare experience from pre-arrival to post-care. For example, integrating farmers markets, shopping centers, food courts, and exercise areas provide opportunities for normal daily activities to make the healthcare experience feel less clinical. Life integration in healthcare is about creating an experience, not just another ‘to-do’ appointment in a patient’s day. 

healthcare design trends

San Mateo Medical Center took this healthcare design trend a step further. Instead of just implementing signage to help patient’s find available amenities, they created environmental graphics in the form of an interactive exhibit that allows personal and community stories to be shared. The Community Story Galley features photos of patients alongside the story of their personal healthcare journey. It promotes a feeling of community connectivity and hope for healing.

Addressing Sign Design Challenges For Today’s Healthcare Facilities

The key to keeping up with today’s healthcare design trends is working with a firm that understands the unique needs of not just healthcare providers, but the patients they serve. Patients want to engage in healthcare at convenient touchpoints in their own communities. To most effectively serve them, you need to consider how access to healthcare intersects with their daily activities and culture. Human-centric design is mission-critical for achieving the best patient outreach. 


GNU Group is a leader in people-first design for healthcare facilities across California and beyond. From branded wayfinding for distributed locations to touching environmental graphics for healthy placemaking, we have a signage design solution. For more information about how we can help transform your impersonal medical offices into a branded patient experience, connect with our team.