Wayfinding’s “Winter Storm Effect”

The answer lies in a given tree’s design

Wayfinding’s “Winter Storm Effect”

Investing all of your energy into one trunk can be problematic when the pressure is on.

The problem of a single trunk

  1. Relying on the elusive “silver bullet” to solve wayfinding challenges, whether you’ve been sold a digital platform or physical signage, negates other potential means of navigating for those who will ultimately need help.
  2. Updating tools is always a challenge in healthcare cultures, though we know that almost as soon as they’re launched they can be outdated. Using several platforms, managed by multiple departments only exacerbates the disconnects — for staff and patients.
  3. Like the trees that invest in multiple trunks at multiple angles from a single starting point, we can help design a system that diversifies the burden of communication (print, digital, verbal, training and the built environment) to better support your organization’s wayfinding culture.
Some trees hang onto their leaves too long: eventually they become a liability.

The problem of hanging onto leaves

  1. You may find you’ve invested a lot of money in those tools, and “by God you’re going to get your money’s worth.”
  2. But anyone who studies complex communication systems knows that it takes multiple efforts, at multiple levels, to maintain the health of those systems. Learning and adapting must be part of the process.
  3. An early focus on a human-centered approach to assessment can help you avoid investments that come at too high a cost: both financially and for your patient/staff experience reputation.

The problem of imbalance

  1. Often the burden of sharing wayfinding information falls disproportionately on those who are least equipped to manage it: volunteers, busy nurse practitioners, even contract staff in coffee stands or parking garages.
  2. Those in decision-making roles may fail to see this burden, since their experience of the problem is less evident. They may ultimately see it reflected in lower HCAHPS scores, but by then it’s too late.
  3. Like the balanced conifer, build a strong base of wayfinding communication by training everyone: staff, volunteers and contractors to consistently reference integrated tools in a multi-pronged approach to communicating concisely and correctly. And share the knowledge with patients and families throughout their journey.

The time to prepare is now.



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Mark VanderKlipp

Mark VanderKlipp

Partner at Connect_CX, The Adjacency; speaker, facilitator, systems thinker, healthcare experience designer: www.connect-cx.com