As the business of healthcare evolves, so does the industry’s physical footprint. Healthcare in the U.S. is no longer primarily delivered via large hospitals and connected office buildings filled with doctors and health technicians. Healthcare has migrated to neighborhoods, shopping centers, and mixed-use districts.

As the industry ventures to meet patients where they live, work, and shop, it has encountered a new challenge: implementing signage to ensure brands get the visibility and recognition they need to attract patients and compete in an increasingly competitive environment.

Sign language

Healthcare signage, particularly the signage outside a health facility, speaks to the public in at least two ways. There’s the tactical – a patient may look up, see a sign, then say to oneself, “Oh, it’s right there,” and then go in to their appointment.

And signage is also strategic. With signs alone, healthcare companies have dozens or even hundreds of opportunities each day to put their brand in front of people in a big and bold way. It’s a high-visibility brand touchpoint.

Born under a good sign

What can healthcare organizations do to ensure their signs are impactful and effective?

First, it’s important to consider brand architecture. Mergers, buyouts, partnerships, joint ventures, and expansions can muddy the brand architecture waters, especially when they’re unaccompanied by a cohesive strategy. Too often, these initiatives lead to convoluted and ineffective attempts to convey complex relationships on each sign. A well-crafted brand architecture doesn’t automatically translate to good facility signage and can lead to confusing signs that convey too much information that isn’t relevant in the context.

In healthcare, expressing the complexities of brand architecture using signage risks adding visual complexity. People aren’t typically making unplanned visits to see their PCP, specialist or to get tests. They make appointments and then Google the addresses to get directions.

Healthcare brands should consider when their brand architecture should dictate their signage, and when the approach to signage should be treated differently. It comes down to looking at signage as a unique experiential touchpoint of your brand. And, it requires thoughtful consideration of the context in which people experience signage.

Primary brand: Front and center

Many of the strongest health systems use signs to call attention to the primary brand without highlighting all its sub-components in the signage. The idea behind this approach is to help keep the brand top of mind and convey to consumers that the health system is convenient and accessible.

While traditional multi-building hospital campuses have special signage needs beyond identification and brand recognition (like wayfinding), the more simplistic approach is most impactful when considering healthcare’s ever expanding facility and real estate footprint. As more and more non-hospital healthcare locations pop-up in the form of clinics, physician offices, care centers, and more, there’s greater opportunity to dilute or confuse the brand. Its number one job should be to create brand presence – not navigate people through products and services.

Your sign to talk signs

Signs can (and should!) extend brand recognition into the places where current and prospective patients live, work and shop.

As healthcare integrates into our neighborhoods and daily lives, signage must tell a consistent brand story across diverse settings. Done right, it can turn every facility into a recognizable, welcoming beacon for current and prospective patients.

Ready to rethink your healthcare signage? Send us a note and let’s have a conversation about what’s possible.

Dave Middendorf
January 9, 2024 By Dave Middendorf