Demonstrating Return on Investment: Gundersen Health’s Wayfinding System

Posted in Healthcare, Wayfinding Concept on August 30th, 2011 by Mark VanderKlipp – Be the first to comment

For the August 2011 issue of FacilityCare Magazine, we interviewed Corbin Design client Kari Houser of Gundersen Lutheran about the value of their wayfinding system to the day-to-day operations of the Health System. She provided several insights into cost savings, culture change and the scope, importance and value of a wayfinding program.

To read the entire article, click on “Demonstrating Return on Investment” on the cover page


“Early on in the project, even before we retained Corbin to assist in our wayfinding initiative, we tried hard to find data, measures, metrics that we could use to validate our business plan. We had to come to terms with the fact that we couldn’t put a value on the patient experience, or our success in managing the degree of change we anticipated. We had to ask ourselves ‘Is it the right thing to do conceptually? Is it going to benefit our patients?’”

“We knew that we should be concerned with the amount of staff time spent giving directions, but maybe we weren’t going to find a piece of data to validate this. Instead, we saw the potential improvements to the patient experience as an important part of our outward value proposition, and our internal core values. We then proceeded with managing costs and maximizing the value of the outcomes as the design process rolled out.”

Gundersen Lutheran's wayfinding system includes an interactive physician directory and static directories for wayfinding support

Gundersen Lutheran’s wayfinding system includes an interactive physician directory and static directories for wayfinding support

Once the team and tools were in place, a system of wayfinding signage could be designed and implemented. Rather than using old technology consisting of vinyl sign materials and considerable labor costs, Corbin designed a new system of interior signage using printable inserts. With this in-house capability, Gundersen Health has seen significant improvements since the initial installation: Houser estimates that at least 50% of the original signage inserts have been redone at least 2 or 3 times. “If we hadn’t had that ability, we would have paid for new signage 2, 3 or 4 times over.”

Theresa Besse, an interior designer, adds: “The biggest time and money saver has been the methodology that was implemented for updates to signage. Prior to this new program launch, we used to try every way imaginable, hoping to stumble across a solution. Today, when a signage change is brought to our attention, we have the necessary tools to help identify weak points in communication, and make improvements to the systems that support communication rather than attempting to reinvent the program.”

“I can tell you that our customer service department finds the results of your work to be PHENOMENAL” Kari Houser, Director of Construction and Facility Planning, Gundersen Health

Directional signage works in tandem with visual landmarks on patient floors

Directional signage works in tandem with visual landmarks on patient floors

To quantify the return on the investment from an interior signage standpoint, supporting the old program using their internal sign shop was costing in excess of $55,000 annually for materials alone. In 2009, the first year the program was fully implemented, materials costs dropped to just over $15,000. But materials costs are not the only indicator of success; Houser says that “the methodology put in place is delivering a qualitative value far in excess of what we ever spent on signage.”

The success of the wayfinding program has had broad implications throughout the organization. Armed with the proper knowledge and tools, the Wayfinding Team works each day to build awareness of the importance of multiple communications to support the patient experience.

With all of the changes that Gundersen Health has been making, it’s difficult to quantify the specific benefits of the wayfinding system. But the success of this program is due to the broad approach that the team took to the entire range of wayfinding communications, and the individual responsibility of people within the organization to build on the patient experience. The Gundersen Health team has built a flexible infrastructure to manage the intricacies of massive change while always staying true to their mission and values. And that, for them, is priceless.

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Corbin Design, a national leader in wayfinding planning and signage design, announced Shelley Steele has been named President. Steele formerly served as vice president of marketing.

As president, Steele is primarily responsible for the vision and direction of Corbin Design as well as the internal leadership and management of the staff. In her new role, she will continue to oversee business development and marketing.

“With her knowledge of the… More...

As we develop wayfinding systems for a variety of clients, we appreciate how public engagement is critical to the design process. Here, we share two examples from recent client groups and the outcomes of those sessions:

Ochsner Medical Center, New Orleans LA

We led a prototype process on the interior of this complex medical campus to test proposed logic changes and as a “proof of concept” for wayfinding tools. The exercise was designed to… More...

The FHWA has issued a clarification on the ruling it issued on January 25, 2016 terminating the Interim Approval of Clearview as an alternate font to the MUTCD. With regard to community wayfinding signage systems, the use of alternate fonts is still possible.

To summarize:

  • Projects currently in fabrication do not need to comply.
  • To the extent possible, projects currently in design should switch to the

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