The seminar ‘Customer Experience in Health Architecture’ held in Kortrijk, Belgium in June was a great success.
ID/Lab had initiated this seminar as the kick-off of the ID/Lab European office. More than 170 representatives of hospitals, aged care, and health architects came to listen to a varied line-up of speakers.
The seminar was held at AZ Groeninge, a new 1100 bed hospital in Belgium. ID/Lab has been working with the hospital and Osar, the architects, on the development of a new wayfinding package.
Jo Dendauw of AZ Groeninge explained the reasons behind the development of the new hospital, the first phase (300 beds) which opened in 2010, and the merger of the five present campuses into one.
He went into depth about the problems they have experienced with the present wayfinding; how it is just a collection of sign panels, without much consideration for the users, or for how the system hangs together.
Jo said that the thing that stood out in the work done by ID/Lab so far, was the focus on process. Without being completely clear on the exact steps that the users have to take, and what exact information they need at every decision point, the wayfinding system is doomed.
“In quite a number of instances, we found that we, the hospital, had not considered the users enough in the design of both the architecture, and the design of our contact with those users. the process mapping that ID/Lab has done has made it possible for us to get a better insight into the users’ exact needs during their journey through our hospital.”
“What has become completely clear” Jo added, “is that we should stop trying to solve every wayfinding problem with just signage. Signage is not wayfinding.”
Hilde Vermolen from Osar, spoke about the more technical parts of the hospital development itself. Especially the large group of health architects were very interested since AZ Groeninge is at the forefront of new developments in health architecture in Belgium.
Bart Vermandere, an access consultant from Westkans, discussed the principles of universal design, and showed some great examples of how universal design does not mean ‘disability focus’ but rather a new way of thinking about inclusiveness.
Stephanie van Rossum, Customer Experience Engineer from the Dutch ViGo had an energetic speech about the customer experience, and the role that hospital staff have to play in this. Customer experience is no accident; it needs to be completely integrated in the fabric of an organisation in order to get the best return on investment.
Michel Verheem, the Director of ID/Lab International, was the main speaker for the day.
He explained the importance of integrated wayfinding; integrated with the hospital’s processes, and integrated with the architecture. “Other than the clinical treatment itself, the experience that people have in the hospital building and the touchpoints between the visitor and the organisation are the main ways to express yourself as an organisation. It is those things that create the overall User Experience” he said. “Most hospitals focus solely on the clinical experience, and leave the experience in the built environment out of the equation.”
“A wayfinding system cannot be developed in isolation from architecture and landscaping. The better the collaboration between architect, landscaper and wayfinding strategist, the better the end result will be. Signage is not wayfinding.” (and for the people who were there: You don't build a house with just a hammer).
Joren van Dijk, a Dutch Environmental Psychologist, closed the day with a presentation about how to use psychology to create a legible environment, and how this legibility adds to the user-friendliness of the space.
At the end of the seminar many guests stayed on for a drink, and the opportunity to meet the speakers and fellow participants.
The seminar was such a success that it will be repeated in November in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, for Dutch hospitals and architects.