At a hospital you need to be able to find your way around easily and quickly. It is very inconvenient for both patients and relatives to spend a lot of time looking for the right department. When they arrive at the hospital they are often under a great deal of stress due to pain or anxiety.
Poor wayfinding may also affect staff and hospitalised patients because people stop and ask for directions. Interruptions may lead to errors. We know this from the project Medicine Handling - Barriers Against Errors which Design School Kolding completed in collaboration with the paediatrics ward at Kolding Hospital.
In close collaboration with employees and users, the design team from the LAB for Social Inclusion have conducted a number of observations and workshops, and interviewed employees and patients/relatives and come up with a series of recommendations for how to improve wayfinding at Middelfart Hospital and other hospital environments.
The recommendations are listed in the report “Wayfinding, Middelfart Sygehus” (in Danish).
Primarily the team has chosen to work with lights, colours and pictograms; not least because it is cheap and effective but also because it is flexible. And this is one of the conditions that hospitals face: Treatments are changed regularly and this means that the buildings and design of the buildings must be flexible in order to meet new requirements.
The recommendations are described in the report. Here is a selection:
- Make sure that names are always presented in the same way, so that department names correspond in letters, on the website and in the hospital.
- Use regular, layman terms and avoid any latin terms.
- Use department colours and pictograms in letters and on the website stating very clearly in writing, colours and images to which department the external user has been called.
- Make a map of the hospital outlining the route and include it in the letter and on the website.
- Many of the departments have similar names. Make a strategy for naming the different departments so they become more diverse and become easier for external users to understand.
Open source knowledge
The project results will be accessible to anyone with an interest in the field. It is a relevant topic at most hospitals; not least because of the new super hospitals that are under construction in Denmark.