A Qualitative Inquiry of the Impact of Hospital Lobby Design on Wayfinding Performance


Presented by: Suining Ding

Arthur and Passini’s study shows that good wayfinding promotes healing; reduce stress and frustration for the visitor. Good wayfindig also promotes functional efficiency and improve visitors’ safety and empowerment as well as improve cognitive skills in spatial understanding (Arthur & Passini, 1992). Huelat indicates in a position paper published by The Center of Health Design that wayfinding was not an afterthought, but should be carefully designed into the project. This allows elements such as curved bulkheads and lighting to be built-in, allowing wayfinding to intuitively lead to source of information (B. Huelat, 2007).

This paper presents a study that examines how physical environment design impacts the wayfinding performance in hospital lobbies through comparative studies. The methods for this study are behavioral observations and interviews that have been conducted in four hospital lobbies in Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC) complex in the United States. Theses lobbies are Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC) lobby; Parkview Heart Institute; Parkview (PHI) lobby; Parkview Women and Children’s Hospital (PWCH) lobby and Parkview Outpatient Center (POC) lobby. Visitors and patients’ behavior (n=142) and the frequency of using information desk and using touch screen map or printed map in four different lobbies in PRMC complex were observed and analyzed. Structured interviews with the receptionists (n=4) were also carried out in four hospital lobbies. Whether the four hospital lobbies were designed with intuitive wayfinding system, such as landmarks, the signage, the information desk, art works, maps, lightings and distinct colors were observed and compared. 

After behavioral observations data collection in four lobbies, a histogram that shows the frequency of using information desk vs. touch screen map or map was generated in Figure 1. In general, if visitors used touch screen map, they tend to use the touch screen map first before they stopped at information desk. In PRMC lobby, 31 visitors stopped at information desk. 54.8% of male visitors and 45.1% of female visitors using information desk (Figure 2). Only 12.9% of visitors are over 60s (4 visitors are over 60s) (Figure 3). In Heart Institute lobby, 14 visitors stopped at information desk. 64.3% of visitors are male and 35.7% of visitors are female who stopped at information desk (Figure 2). 38.4% of visitors are over 60s (5 visitors) stopped at information desk (Figure 3). In OutpatientCenter lobby, 13 visitors stopped at information desk. 38.4% of visitors are male and 61.6% of visitors are female who stopped at the information desk (Figure 2). 23% of visitors are over 60s (3 visitors) who stopped at information desk (Figure 3). In Women and Children’s Hospital lobby, two visitors stopped at the information desk. Both are 40s. They are one male and one female visitor. This can be explained because of the information desk is a free standing desk in the lobby. The behavioral observation recording sheets are provided in the Appendix (Figure 4-Figure 7).

Based on the data collected from behavioral observations and interviews, the conclusions are that visitors almost totally rely on the information desk when intuitive wayfinding system is not provided in the forms of building typology and visual cues as defined by Marquardt (2011). The visitors or patients need face to face interactions in a hospital setting. Map users tend to use the touch screen map or a printed map or a directory before they stop at information desk. Data does not show high percentage of older visitors (over 60s) using information desk. Data also does not show significant high percentage of women using information desk. Therefore, there is no difference between male visitors’ preference of using information desk vs. female visitors’ preference of using information desk.

References: 

  • Arthur, Paul, & Passini, Romedi. (1992). Wayfinding: people, signs, and architecture.
  • Huelat, BJ. (2007). Wayfinding: Design for understanding. A Position Paper for the Environmental Standards Council of The Center for Health Design. California. The Center for Health Design.
  • Marquardt, Gesine. (2011). Wayfinding for people with dementia: a review of the role of architectural design. Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD), 4(2).

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