Make wayfinding a priority when rebranding your healthcare organization

Make wayfinding a priority when rebranding your healthcare organization


Jo Clarke, Vivien Lin

If you’re a marketing leader at a healthcare organization, it’s important to remember this fundamental reality: Your primary audience will almost always encounter your brand from a place of vulnerability when they come to your facilities.

This is true whether they’re experiencing a medical emergency, visiting an ailing loved one, or heading to a doctor’s appointment for preventative care. To that end, meeting your audience’s needs requires empathy and careful consideration. You can’t change their state of mind as they arrive at your healthcare organization, but you can influence a positive impression of your brand even amid illness, anxiety, and stress. How? Make sure your visitors can easily find where they’re going.

A good wayfinding strategy helps visitors successfully navigate your facility and find their destination with ease. It makes large, complex structures feel less intimidating. And it reduces the likelihood that your audience will feel lost and confused while interacting with your brand.

For these reasons, you can’t afford to let your wayfinding strategy fall by the wayside. Whether you’re in the midst of a rebrand, have recently rolled one out, or are simply striving to improve the patient and visitor experience, here’s how to create a wayfinding experience that reflects well on your brand.

Diagnose the cause of poor wayfinding at your healthcare organization

As Zig Ziglar wisely pointed out, “The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” To that end, if you truly want to improve your audience’s experience with your brand, it’s time to identify the areas where you’re not living up to your brand’s full potential.

The following symptoms are sure signs your organization has a wayfinding problem:

  • Visitors continually get lost trying to find their destination
  • Your team members frequently need to provide verbal directions to help patients and guests find their way
  • You’ve invested in Band-Aid solutions like mobile apps, digital signs, or more physical signs (but you’ve come to the realization that they only cause more confusion)
When was the last time you walked through your healthcare organization’s facilities and really paid attention to what your patient or visitor experience is like?

Of course, identifying the symptoms of poor wayfinding is just the beginning. To address them, you’ll need to uncover the specific source of the issues.

Complete a walkthrough to assess the visitor experience

You may have journeyed through your organization’s facilities hundreds of times, but that journey can be vastly different for a visitor. When was the last time you walked through your healthcare organization’s facilities and really paid attention to what your patient or visitor experience is like?

It can be eye-opening to engage with your brand from a visitor’s perspective. So it’s wise not to make any changes to your wayfinding strategy until you and your team have walked in their shoes. Visit your locations. Explore your hallways. Drive around campus. And take note of what you find — or don’t find — along the way.

Pay attention to:

  • Signs. Are they placed in helpful locations? For example, when you step off an elevator, is it immediately obvious which way to turn?
  • Legibility. Are fonts easy to read and large enough to make out from a distance?
  • Accessibility. Is your wayfinding intuitive for people who live with cognitive impairments? Are your color schemes discernible for people with color blindness? Are there alternative ways for visitors with a variety of disabilities to access wayfinding information?
  • Nomenclature. Are your buildings labeled consistently on maps, written directions, and other wayfinding aids? Do they all match the name on or near the building itself?
  • Landmarks. Do your facilities have statues, fountains, art installations, and other notable landmarks? Are you using these valuable resources to help people orient themselves?

Truth be told, it can be challenging to assess your current state objectively. Sometimes you need an outside perspective to point out areas that are confusing or otherwise lacking. A brand implementation partner knows exactly what to look for and can help you see your organization through fresh eyes.

Interview frontline team members about wayfinding pain points

Another way to get to the root of wayfinding problems is to talk with the team members who directly interact with patients and visitors daily. Nurses, aides, receptionists, and other frontline staff can provide valuable insights into the wayfinding pain points that visitors experience.

Furthermore, IT and physical plant team members can shed light on whether various digital solutions (e.g., digital signs, apps, customer portals) are consistent with your physical wayfinding experience.

Ask questions like:

  • Where do visitors tend to get lost or confused? Are any locations particularly difficult to find?
  • How frequently do people approach you to ask for help finding their way?
  • What are the biggest pain points for visitors when it comes to wayfinding?
  • When visitors need to find their way to multiple appointments in the same day, how easy is it to navigate from one office, department, or wing to another?
  • Have you noticed any discrepancies in our wayfinding systems? For example, do directions provided via email or on the website match the patient’s experience when they arrive?
  • What changes would you like to see made to the wayfinding system?
  • How do you approach giving directions?

That last question is particularly important to think about, especially when rebranding. It’s common for building names to change as part of a rebrand. As a result, your employees might casually refer to a building using its legacy name instead of its updated name. And if they do so when giving directions to a patient or visitor, it can cause unnecessary confusion and even water down the impact of your brand.

Rebranding checklist | Over 150 branded touchpoints

Is your company in the midst of a rebrand or planning for one? Our free rebranding checklist is a great way to start to scope what is involved with a initiative like this.

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Implement a holistic wayfinding treatment plan to meet your audience’s needs

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to your wayfinding problems. To arrive at the right approach, you’ll need to carefully think through what you want your audience’s experience to be and design a wayfinding system to deliver that experience.

But take note: Implementing a comprehensive wayfinding strategy involves more than simply rebranding all your signs. Many people think of signage and wayfinding as synonymous, but signs are only one component of a larger system.

There are a number of visual and informational elements that work together to help people orient themselves to their surroundings. These include:

  • Signs, graphics, and maps that are easy to read and understand
  • Design elements such as shapes, colors, and iconography that help visitors distinguish one area from another
  • Clear, concise directions that are easy to follow
  • Architectural considerations such as landmarks that help assure visitors they’re moving in the right direction
  • Strategic lighting choices that spotlight important pieces of information
  • Consistent nomenclature for buildings and wings

Thoughtfully incorporate all these elements into your wayfinding strategy.

Consider the needs of your internal audience, too

It’s also critical to think through how wayfinding impacts your internal stakeholders. Will new employees be able to find their way? Are visiting nurses and doctors able to navigate quickly and seamlessly from wing to wing and building to building — especially during times of emergency? Do team members understand how to give directions in a way that aligns with your overall brand identity?

You want your team members to be ambassadors of your brand. Therefore, take time to assess and improve their wayfinding experience. And make sure they have the information and training they need to deliver your brand promise consistently to your external audience.

Remedy poor wayfinding to improve your patient experience

Rebranding is the perfect time to take a bird’s eye view of your wayfinding strategy. After all, you’ll need to convert all your branded assets during the rebrand implementation process. So, you might as well look at your wayfinding system and roll out your rebrand in a way that best meets your audience’s needs. An expert rebrand implementation partner like BrandActive can help you create a wayfinding strategy that fits into your existing rebrand implementation plan.

But the truth is that anytime is a good time to make wayfinding a priority at your organization. Even if your rebrand is in the rearview or you anticipate a rebrand in the future, you can’t afford to allow your patient experience to languish. You may not be able to fix everything at once, but you can make strides in improving your visitors’ experience with your brand.

No matter your situation, BrandActive can help you identify the symptoms that point to a wayfinding problem, diagnose the underlying conditions that cause pain points for your audience, and devise a wayfinding cure for the long haul.

Ready to get started? Just reach out.