Identifying elements of the health care environment that contribute to wayfinding

Debajyoti Pati, Thomas E. Harvey, Douglas A. Willis, Sipra Pati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Objectives: Identify aspects of the physical environment that inform wayfinding for visitors. Compare and contrast the identified elements in frequency of use. Gain an understanding of the role the different elements and attributes play in the wayfinding process. Background: Wayfinding by patients and visitors is a documented problem in healthcare facilities. The few studies that have been conducted have identified some of the environmental elements that influence wayfinding. Moreover, literatures comparing different design strategies are absent. Currently there is limited knowledge to inform prioritization of strategies to optimize wayfinding within capital budget. Methods: A multi-method, non-experimental, qualitative, exploratory study design was adopted. The study was conducted in a large, acute care facility in Texas. Ten healthy adults in five age groups, representing both sexes, participated in the study as simulated visitors. Data collection included (a) verbal protocols during navigation; (b) questionnaire; and (c) verbal directions from hospital employees. Data were collected during Fall 2013. Results: Physical design elements contributing to wayfinding include signs, architectural features, maps, interior elements (artwork, display boards, information counters, etc.), functional clusters, interior elements pairing, structural elements, and furniture. The information is used in different ways - some for primary navigational information, some for supporting navigational information, and some as familiarity markers. Conclusions: The physical environment has a critical role in aiding navigation in healthcare facilities. Architectural feature is the top contributor in the domain of architecture. Artwork (painting, sculpture, etc.) is the top contributor in the domain of interior design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-67
Number of pages24
JournalHealth Environments Research and Design Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Health care design
  • Hospital
  • Interior design
  • Wayfinding


Dive into the research topics of 'Identifying elements of the health care environment that contribute to wayfinding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this