How do we quantify the intangible cost of ineffective wayfinding?
We know that without a good wayfinding system, it takes longer to travel from A to B. This leads to hours of staff time lost redirecting and escorting patients and visitors to their destinations. It also increases the likelihood that patients will arrive at their appointment late, and this wastes the time of their healthcare provider who is left waiting.
However, despite knowing that these things will all cost the hospital in some way, it is difficult to put an exact figure to it.
Therefore, even though signage has a significant effect on the efficiency of the building, it is often overlooked and can become a last-minute decision.
It’s important, when developing your wayfinding plan, to keep in mind the nature of the facilities – hospitals are often large and complex, and visitors are frequently stressed, worried or anxious before even setting foot in the building. When you add to this stress a poor navigational system, it increases the likelihood that your patients are going to show up at their appointments late, flustered and frustrated, with a negative frame of mind from the outset. Adding to this the physical symptoms of stress such as increased blood pressure and headaches, the patient is hardly in the best possible position to be receiving treatment.
Visitors to hospitals and health facilities are also often affected by impairments and disabilities, whether temporary or permanent.
There needs to be an accessible path clearly marked and easy to follow, no harder to identify than the route designated for able bodied visitors.
Ideally, it would be the same path, but where ramps and lifts are necessary the signage needs to be in place soon enough along the route that the visitor is able to access it without backtracking. Visitors with vision impairment require signage that is clearly legible, with strong colour contrast and large lettering, sufficient lighting with reduced glare, and tactile letters and braille for the severely visually impaired.
We have found that the best method for wayfinding strategy is to walk a mile in the shoes of the user.
We map the route that would be taken – where are they entering the building? How did they arrive at the building? Do they stay on one floor or do they need to use lifts or stairs?
Importantly, where do they look for navigational cues? A comfortable middle ground for seated wheelchair users and those who are standing is 1200mm to 1600mm from the floor, but placement strategy doesn’t stop there – where on the wall will the user be most likely to look, and what is the clearest way to communicate the intended message?
Taking into account the deeply psychological nature of wayfinding, we map out the route to answer the questions most likely to arise during navigation and place the answers in the area where it’s most likely to be seen.
A good wayfinding strategy will take into account the vulnerability of health-seekers while navigating a health facility. To make the patient experience a positive one and to put them in the best position to improve their health, well thought out wayfinding signage will be coupled with unmistakable environmental graphics to let them know they have arrived at their destination.
Designing wayfinding for health means acknowledging the patient’s experience from start to finish and the challenges that they face along the way. Because we handle everything in house from concept to completion, we are well versed in guiding the navigation process and understand the intricacies of health facilities. We can achieve a consistent identity and messaging, while clearly differentiating departments and spaces within the building.