Carefinding Matters

Hospital hallway. Hospital signage.

Creating Excellent Wayfinding Programs in Healthcare

Hospital hallway. Hospital signage.

Hospital settings are complex environments with multiple buildings, departments, and wings. If finding a destination at a hospital wasn’t already stressful enough, things like renovations and expansions create confusion by adding on to the complexity of existing layouts.

In today's complex and ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the term "carefinding" has emerged to describe the essential role of wayfinding programs in hospitals. Carefinding goes beyond traditional wayfinding, focusing on creating a seamless and patient-centered experience within healthcare facilities.

This brief blog post explores

  • Why strong carefinding programs are particularly crucial in a healthcare setting
  • Who benefits from improved carefinding
  • Evidence-based best practices for better carefinding.

The information in this post is sourced from two insightful articles. The first was written by Randy Cooper and published by ASHE (the American Society for Healthcare Engineering) in 2009. The  other, written by a team of authors and published by Gensler Research in 2016, is based on a comprehensive audit of third party research and a survey of more than 25 healthcare professionals.

Why Carefinding is Important in a Healthcare Setting

Doctors walking through a hospital hallway.

Navigating a healthcare facility can be a daunting task for patients, visitors, and even staff members. In a time-sensitive and often stressful environment, effective wayfinding plays a vital role in ensuring that individuals reach their desired destinations efficiently. It minimizes anxiety, reduces confusion, and enhances the overall patient experience. Moreover, carefinding contributes to the smooth functioning of healthcare institutions, optimizing operational efficiency and improving patient flow.

Effective wayfinding programs always include a combination of maps and physical signs, as well as interpretation and placemaking. Placemaking is particularly important in hospitals to help people identify where they are, but also to contribute to a sense of calm and well-being.

Beneficiaries & Benefits of Better Carefinding


  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety
    According to Cooper, “Well-designed wayfinding systems can alleviate stress and anxiety for patients, allowing them to focus on their care."
  • Enhanced Safety
    Carefinding programs ensure patients can navigate emergency exits, reducing potential risks.
  • Accessibility
    Mobility challenges need to be comprehensively addressed to ease navigation for patients of all kinds.
  • Improved Patient Experience and Satisfaction
    According to the Gensler article, "A positive wayfinding experience can significantly impact patient satisfaction scores, leading to better overall patient experiences."


  • Ease of Access
    Effective wayfinding guides visitors to their intended destinations promptly, minimizing frustration and saving time.
  • Increased Comfort
    According to the Gensler article, "Carefinding programs that prioritize visitor needs create a welcoming and supportive environment."
  • Positive Perception
    Clear and intuitive wayfinding systems leave a lasting impression on visitors, reflecting the institution's commitment to exceptional care.


  • Efficient Workflow
    According to the ASHE article, "Streamlined wayfinding programs enable staff members to navigate the facility quickly, allowing them to focus on delivering quality care."
  • Time Savings
    Well-planned wayfinding reduces staff time spent providing directions, enabling them to allocate more time to patient care.
  • Enhanced Collaboration
    According to the Gensler article, "Carefinding initiatives foster collaboration among multidisciplinary teams, leading to improved communication and coordination."

The Institution

  • Operational Efficiency
    Effective carefinding programs optimize patient flow, reducing bottlenecks and wait times.
  • Cost Savings
    According to the Cooper, "Improved wayfinding can lead to cost savings by reducing missed appointments and minimizing late arrivals."
  • Positive Reputation
    A strong wayfinding program enhances the institution's reputation, attracting patients and enhancing the overall brand image.

20 Evidence-Based Best Practices to Achieve Better Carefinding

By utilizing research and data-driven insights as outlined in the referenced articles, healthcare institutions can implement strategies that have proven to be successful in improving navigation within their facilities.

These evidence-based practices include:

  1. Prioritizing facility commitment and executive-level support to improve wayfinding and centralize funding for wayfinding initiatives in the overall facility budget.
  2. Involving a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders, including community members, patients, contractors, architects, planners, interior designers, landscape designers, and in-house staff.
  3. Conducting thorough analysis and data collection to determine specific wayfinding needs and performance parameters.
  4. Considering the facility's future plans, growth, and trends in the healthcare industry.
  5. Establishing benchmarks for wayfinding program performance along with a plan to evaluate the results of the wayfinding improvements against those benchmarks to make necessary adjustments and enhancements.
  6. Identifying and prioritizing the most pressing wayfinding needs, such as emergency departments and important public areas.
  7. Developing preliminary wayfinding concepts and presenting them for review and feedback.
  8. Documenting design intent, typical elements, and necessary details for the wayfinding system.
  9. Utilizing a unified system approach, including consistent terminology and visual aesthetics.
  10. Establishing standards that can be updated easily as needed and egularly monitoring.
  11. Updating the wayfinding program to keep it fresh and up to date.
  12. Conducting limited beta tests of the wayfinding elements to allow for adjustments and refinements before full implementation.
  13. Implementing a facility-wide numbering system for easier navigation.
  14. Planning and designing clear and concise directions and signage for frequently visited destinations.
  15. Providing comprehensive staff training on giving directions and ensuring that all staff members are knowledgeable about the wayfinding system.
  16. Designing wayfinding elements to accommodate users with diverse needs, including limited English proficiency and individuals under stress.
  17. Implementing the full wayfinding program in a phased approach if necessary.
  18. Establishing effective two-way communication channels with staff and other departments to ensure their involvement and support.
  19. Establishing strong vendor/supplier relationships and designating responsible staff for updates and maintenance.
  20. Continuously focusing on customer satisfaction, employee feedback, and bottom-line performance to ensure the success of the wayfinding program.


A strong wayfinding or carefinding program is essential in a healthcare settings to provide a seamless patient-centered experience. Patients, visitors, staff, and the institution itself all benefit from improved wayfinding, leading to enhanced satisfaction, reduced stress, efficient workflows, cost savings, and a positive reputation. By implementing the evidence-based best practices outlined above, healthcare institutions can create an environment where carefinding becomes an integral part of the exceptional care they deliver.