As healthcare administrators nationwide put increased emphasis on improving the patient experience, signage is one of their most effective tools, impacting patients, visitors and staff alike.
Signs welcome and direct. They enhance the visual environment, complement the décor and showcase the healthcare brand. In a hospital setting, they also calm frazzled nerves, relieve anxiety and free up staff time.
Sign planning for a hospital requires a more sensitive approach than a typical wayfinding project. Since the majority of people entering the facility may be sick themselves or in a rush to get to a loved one, the signs need to be especially clear, concise and easy to follow.
Having signage that communicates effectively relieves the stress level for medical and administrative staff as well. Visitors are more apt to rely on a passing staff member for directions when they can’t follow the hospital’s signs, interrupting tasks and delaying medical personnel schedules. Signage that anticipates their needs solves that problem.
While sign structure is designed to fit the overall décor, flexibility is a key factor in wayfinding sign formats. Many large hospitals are continually renovating, making changeability an important feature. Anytime a new wing is added or a department is moved, it creates a domino effect in the sign program. New areas have to be linked with existing areas causing many, if not all, of the signs to be altered. A flexible, modular system and/or a sign “family” that holds changeable inserts is the damage-free, low-maintenance facilitator for communicating those changes -- and it’s eco-friendly. This lessens the need for temporary signs, eliminating confusion and saving time and money.
While it doesn’t take the place of a full wayfinding solution, digital signage has a growing presence in hospitals, particularly for public-facing messages and education in entries, corridors and waiting rooms, as well as for behind-the-scenes, in-house training and communication. Gradually changing digital visuals are intentionally planned in some facilities to distract patients from their worries and inspire calm.
Large, attractive wall graphics are being employed to identify departments, create welcoming environments and also reduce anxiety. Along with other décor and artwork, these landmarks identify decision points for visitors making their way to, and returning from, a department destination.
Additionally, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) signage regulations support a welcoming environment by unifying recognizable symbols for restrooms and other locations, specifying typography and Braille to support the visually impaired and providing guidelines for accessibility.
With the healthcare community focused on creating a healing, welcoming environment, signage will continue to have a valued role. Well-planned signs offer not only accessibility but heightened hospitality for the optimum healthcare experience.