Thursday, 31 May 2012

The language of signs: How sufficient and effective sign-boards take you one step closer to NABH accreditation

Hospitals are a public place and attract a diversity of mankind who come to the facility to get healed. As hospital administrators, we spend enormous time building a credible clinical team and a functional hospital structure. But one area which constantly misses the attention of administrators is the sign-boards inside the hospital.

Since we work in a hospital, we are used to its many departments and we are aware of their locations. But can we expect a first-time patient to know what all facilities our hospitals offer and where are they all located? Also, all kinds of patients who speak various languages visit the hospitals and there is a decent chance that some patients might not know English, Hindi and even the local language of the city/state in which the hospital is set up (for example, medical tourists from other countries or Indian patients who travel from one part of the nation to another part for treatment). So language can be a big barrier in communication as well apart from lack of sign-boards.

NABH team felt that most hospitals lack this ability to provide sound directions to their patients. This probably is the reason why there is a lot of focus on signages in NABH quality standards and it forms as one of the assessment criteria.

Hospitals and healthcare facility, new or old, can begin by thinking through the various facilities they offer and developing sign boards on them. Care should be taken to prefer signs over text-based signages or a hybrid can be used.

For the sake of creating cleaner environment, you could place dust-bins at various places and could use following sign –
Toilets are another facility that most visitors would like to use. Rather than placing a sticker on the toilet door/wall, it would be better to use signages at an angle to the wall, like the following example –


Also notice the use of the image for physically-challenged visitors. A common requirement of visitors is to locate lift or staircases to move to various sections of the hospital building. Sign-boards could come handy here too –


But a sign board with text, sign and direction would be much appreciated by the visitors.
Since hospital is a public place and certain visitors who intentionally or unintentionally smoke inside your premises can create disturbance for other people, having signs to discourage smoking can be a good idea –


Letting patients know the services offered in a particular part of the building will also avoid patients to unnecessarily waste their waiting time in areas where they are not supposed to be –



NABH puts a lot of focus on patient safety and this requires administrators to create fire-safe buildings and provide enough information signs to visitors in the event of a fire disaster. One area to help visitors/staff is to extinguish fire through prompt action is to provide fire extinguishers at various places and put requisite signages –

Here again, a sign-board at an angle to the wall should be a preferred option –


In many hospitals, basic signs for escape/exit routes are not provided which can be a major risk to patients’ safety. Simple signs like below can enhance the safety of your patients/visitors/staff –
Informing visitors and staff to stay away from lifts during a fire emergency can also save lives –

More than anything, it requires your common sense to design a patient-friendly hospital building and a visitor-friendly signage system. 

1 comment:

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