It’s about time we got another installment of Healthcare Graphics Need Help out, so let’s jump right into things. Above are two photos of typical hospital signage. What about them?
First, the one on the left. What if we told you that this is a real hospital room that we saw visiting a hospitalized family member, and that one of the patients in that room was under isolation for having a potentially contagious disease? There’s nothing warning anyone of this fact outside of a small, laminated, almost hidden notice pinned to a curtain inside the room. The floor sign, however, clearly lets us know that the floor is wet. Wonderful demonstration of priorities!
The biggest problem with this setup isn’t visitors, who don’t know to wash their hands when touching their loved one. Nor is it the physicians and nurses who do and who have access to charts and such. It’s the other staff in the hospital. The guy from food services. The cleaner from environmental services. The porters who move patients from place to place. These people are being put at risk every time they come into work and there’s no warning to them whatsoever – they had to be told that the curtain notice was there by another visitor and were very thankful for the warning!
Secondly, the one on the right. The greatest amount of signage in any hospital is devoted to what we in the industry call “wayfinding,” directing people from one place to another both indoors and outside. They have become routine, bordering on boilerplate. The same modular construction, the same few font families, the same text-on-solid-colour-with-arrow design. It’s safe, non-offensive and easy to update.
What’s wrong is that hospital administrations seem content to spend money on their wayfinding signage to the expense of others. They understand and recognize that this signage speaks to people of their precious hospital brand – like being seen in a clean, shiny car. What they often lack is the follow-through – they go all-out, spending on a clean, flashy wayfinding system and then when it comes time to look at signage for controlling infection we hear that they “don’t have the money” and find that they’re using unprofessional, ad-hoc or handmade signs, if even that. That’s a problem – their shiny car is parked in a filthy vacant lot.
So, while it’s a bit tacky to end this with a sales pitch, our Patient Guard inserts are $0.75 a pop and use a Human Factors approach to get around the issues associated with clearly labeling a room containing a patient under isolation. This effectively reduces risk to everyone wishing to enter a now well-signed isolation room. Visitors, porters, nurses, everyone.
“Don’t have the money” is no excuse given how much healthcare associated infections, workplace-acquired infections and full-blown pandemics cost to handle.
And trust us – we’ve been doing signs for over 25 years and Infection Control ones for 10 – clean, symbolic, readable infection control signage like ours is a much, much better representation of a hospital brand than the ad-hoc or absent signs currently in use. And that’s just the beginning of a complete graphical infection control communication system, read more here.
Sorry if all that was a bit harsh, but it needed to be said.