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Medical Wayfinding Signs: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Wayfinding?

A.

Wayfinding is a system that helps people navigate through a physical environment (sometimes complex) with the help of visual cues such as signage, maps, directions, symbols, colors to guide them to their destinations. Signs are a major part of wayfinding as they direct people where they need to go after entering a built structure or open space.

Q. What is patient wayfinding?

A.

Patient Wayfinding is a system that helps patients find their way around a medical facility. A good wayfinding system helps patients easily navigate through several departments, or sometimes even several buildings, during a single visit. Patient wayfinding also helps in-

- Identifying the locations of services

- Controlling vehicle and pedestrian circulation

- Identifying public and restricted staff areas

- Managing risks due to workplace health and safety, medical and security issues

Q. How can wayfinding be improved at medical centers/hospitals?

A.

Wayfinding is not just about signs but a cumulation of many other aspects that let a patient reach the destination quickly and without difficulty.

Patient-friendly Language: Difficult to understand medical terms like “Otolaryngology” could be replaced with “Ear, Nose, and Throat”, and “Gastroenterology” with “Digestive Care” on the signs so that patients can quickly decide which department to head to and not feel confused. Take help of graphical symbols to represent the functioning of each department—like a heart for cardiology or lungs for pulmonology.

Self-check-in: Instead of waiting for a chance to speak to the receptionist, patients can directly check-in for their appointments by using digital touch screens or kiosks. These can provide maps & turn-by-turn directions to almost all hospital destinations too.

Hospital Apps:Hospitals can develop user-friendly apps or websites with interactive maps and directional information alongside appointment details.

Guides, Maps: Building level guides, printed maps, and exterior signage visible from street-level can show how different facilities connect

Q. Why is wayfinding signage important in hospitals?

A.

Image Building: Hospital Wayfinding Signs contribute to a positive patient experience, which in turn builds a positive image for your hospital.

Reducing Stress: Patients and families who visit healthcare campuses are already under stress. Confusing or inadequate wayfinding signage will only create more anxiety.

More Time For Staff: When signs do their job effectively, hospital staff would have to spend less time answering patient queries. Administrative workers can take up more important tasks such as patient outreach, while clinical staff would be able to dedicate more time to patient care.


Safety: Wayfinding signage clearly identifies restricted access areas, helps in fire and evacuation egress marking, and ensures safety.

Q. What are the components of a well-designed wayfinding sign for hospitals?

A.

Clear Content: Avoid wordy signs that would hamper general information from being released instantly. Symbols reduce visual clutter and break the information into consumable pieces, so users are not confused.

Consistent Layout: Wayfinding signs for hospitals should have the same font type, set-out, and design should be consistent to maximize legibility. Sans serif font types have better legibility than serif fonts. A combination of capital and lowercase letters should be used for building directories as they are easier to read. Letter height of 45-50 mm is recommended as the minimum size to be read from a distance of 15-meter.

Braille: Many jurisdictions require Braille to be present on certain signs for accessibility reasons. 

Color: Signs with good contrast between text and background must be given preference.

Mounting: Wall signs must be conspicuously mounted at eye level (1200 mm -1600 mm above the floor) without any light switches, thermostats, and other distractions blocking the view. Suspended signage should be mounted between 2100mm and 3000mm above floor level.

Sign Location and Placement: Signs must be placed at decision points like parking lots, lobbies, and hallway intersections.

Lighting: Signs should be placed in adequate lighting areas.

Q. Are there any laws or regulations that govern hospital signage?

A.

Depending on your state and locality, there can be different laws and regulations that hospital signage needs to comply with, with ADA being on the top.

Federal & ADA hospital signage requirements

Among the many ADA sign regulations, some are reserved for hospitals too. Interior and exterior signs identifying permanent rooms and spaces shall comply with ADA. It is imperative that hallways, doors, entrances, exits, and machines are sufficiently marked, and directions are posted on signage for all of them in accordance with the ADA.

Patient Advocacy, Financial Assistance Signage Requirements

Almost every state requires hospitals to post signs notifying patients that the facility is licensed and comply with state laws to protect patient advocacy. Information about patients, their confidentiality, and the available services form a part of hospital signage requirements. Signs that detail the rights and compensation for crime victims, interpreter availability, availability of nurse staff, and financial assistance are often required, if not expected.

Wayfinding Signage

Hospitals are also expected to post Hospital Wayfinding Signs, wherever required, to help first-time visitors navigate your facility without any ambiguity. Ensure these directional signs are easy to understand, floor directories are easy to read, and patient room content is simple.

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