Navigating the Hospital Maze: Is Poor Design Destroying Your Branding?

You don’t feel well, you have anxiety about your appointment, and to add insult to injury — you’re lost. It’s a scene that plays out every day at thousands of hospitals; patients come in for treatment and leave frustrated and confused.Hospital Marketing, Patient Engagement, Cleveland Clinic, Healthcare Marketing

Marketers work hard to present an image of hospitals that patients can rely upon when they actually walk through the door. A hospital that is difficult to navigate, however, can instantly tarnish years of hospital branding. That is why some hospitals are making an effort to re-think the way their building is navigated in order to improve the patient experience.


This technique is aptly called “wayfinding,” and it is used by designers who employ a variety of strategies to help individuals navigate large spaces. If you have ever shopped in a mall or navigated an airport, chances are you have experienced wayfinding first-hand.

Hospital marketers know that improving the patient experience is essential to retention. In a recent study by the Beryl Institute, 70% of hospitals they surveyed said that patient experience was their top priority. Making your hospital more easily navigable is a simple, cost-effective way to satisfy that goal.

Wayfinding Strategies

There are a variety of wayfinding techniques hospital marketers can employ to improve the patient hospital navigation experience.

  • Use Plain English on Signs

Hospitals are populated with doctors, nurses, and staff who deal with medical terms every day. However, it is important to remember that signs are just as much for patients and visitors as they are for staff. Replacing technical terms, such as “otolaryngology” with more common terminology, such as “ear, nose, and throat,” will automatically make your hospital more accessible to laymen.

  • Establish Landmarks

Many hospitals have multiple floors and corridors that look exactly the same. Landmarks help give people a sense of direction and space. A landmark may include art, a unique color scheme, decorations, furniture, or even plants.

Landmarks can also have the secondary effect of creating a more inviting environment for guests and patients, thereby further enhancing the patient experience.

  • Employ High-tech Solutions

Just as you would receive directions via GPS, some hospitals are implementing high-tech, digital direction systems. These are often presented as a kiosk similar to airport check-in kiosks.

For example, the Cleveland Clinic has installed interactive kiosks at each entrance. The kiosks feature a talking avatar that directs patients on how to use it. Patients are able to interact through a touch-screen command module, and have the ability to perform the following functions:

  • Print directions and maps
  • Send walking directions to a smartphone
  • Get estimated walking times

Apps can also be tailor-made for large campuses and facilities. An app can work similarly to a GPS map, giving walking and driving directions throughout the campus and buildings, as well as parking facilities.

Several of the above wayfinding techniques can be implemented with a minimal of expense and manpower, but will go a long way to improve the patient experience. For hospitals with more resources, there are many tech solutions that will allow patients to successfully navigate a hospital.



Medical Phone Conversions, Best Practice Guide