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Use of universal health care symbols to improve wayfinding and navigation

Yolanda Partida, DPA, Hablamos Juntos National Program Office, UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education & Research, 155 N. Fresno St. Suite 266, Fresno, CA 93701, (559)499-6424, maria@hablamosjuntos.org

People with limited English proficiency in the United States face multiple challenges; one of the most significant can be navigating hospitals and other health care facilities. Complicated directions and confusing terminology can make it difficult for anyone to get the care they need in a timely way, but more so for non-English speakers. Hablamos Juntos, an initiative created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop practical, affordable solutions to language barriers for the non-English speaking, and the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) developed and tested 28 universal health symbols representing important hospital destinations. The symbol design were developed using testing methods adopted by the International Organization for Standardization. Three hundred participants from four language groups: English, Spanish, Indo-European and Asian languages provided input on the comprehension value of candidate symbols. Seventeen of the 28 symbols could be understood by at least 87% of the multilingual testers. The symbols were then tested in the wayfinding systems of four hospitals across the country: Somerville Hospital in Massachusetts; Saint Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Nebraska; Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta; and Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. Symbols were found more effective than text - symbols were easier to see and understand, and were preferred even by those that could read English –hospital staff concluded that symbols would ease the process of giving directions to patients and visitors. The research team also found symbols were flexible and simple to implement a variety of health environments, including those with complex wayfinding programs using signs, print materials and internet features like informational kiosks.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Health Care Access, Health Disparities

Related Web page: www.hablamosjuntos.org/signage/default.index.asp

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Managing Health and Leading Improvement: New Directions in Health Administration

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA