Read our article in ASHE’s HFM Magazine, “Advice on Parking Signage Systems: Upgrading Signposts for a Changing Health Care Environment”
The challenge of directing parking lot traffic and keeping patients and visitors safe has become an increasingly important topic. Hospitals and other types of healthcare facilities are now struggling with a multitude of parking lot challenges. As traffic tends to be moving in and out of these lots on an almost continuous basis, including patients, staff, providers, visitors, vendor deliveries, emergency vehicles, security shuttles, passenger drop off, and more, parking anxiety is at an all time high.
In addition to stress, traffic congestion can lead to other disruptions, including time loss, as drivers are forced to stay in their vehicles longer or drive around looking for a place to park. As a solution to orienting traffic flows in and out of tight parking spaces, many signage and wayfinding alternatives must be employed.
The Move Toward Curbside Care and Virtual Waiting Rooms
Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, many healthcare facilities have made the move toward a curbside model of patient care. Examples of drive-up care include flu shots and other vaccinations, blood pressure checks, B12 injections and strep tests.
In addition, to further support safe social distancing, there has been a reduction in the use of waiting rooms in ambulatory and hospital locations. This is being accomplished through enhanced pre-registration workflows and virtual check-ins upon arrival. Patients who use the virtual waiting room stay in their vehicle until notified that it is time to enter the building. This increases the need for signage and well-designated parking spaces.
While the parking lot has often been an afterthought in the past, it is now becoming much more important – as the parking space, signage, phone/app and car-side staff interaction may be the sum of a patient’s experience with an organization.
The Importance of Proper Parking Lot Signage
Also, with physicians, nurses, hospital staff, security personnel and patients coming and going every day, it is crucial to have proper parking signage displayed. Bent, damaged, missing or destroyed signposts are also a hazard and a risk to handicap/ADA compliance. In addition, many hospitals are required to have designated zones, directional signage, and safety areas, which require the implementation of signposts ranging from ultra-portable to semi-permanent.
Appearance is also important in healthcare. Well-maintained facilities, consistent brand messages, and clear direction/navigation for patients and visitors is critical.
Portable Signpost Solutions Provide for Rapid Deployment
Today’s healthcare facility parking lots often require the ability for quick deployment or the ability to reconfigure the lot at a moment’s notice. Examples of this type of application include Covid-19 drive-up testing, flu shots, emergency helicopter landings, inbound disasters or EMT vehicles, security or fire closings, and more.
Some portable signposts feature an 18 lb. turn-and-lock rubber base that can be moved at a moment’s notice. A desirable feature available in some portable signposts that provides an added measure of safety includes an internal spring that offers 360 degrees of flexibility upon impact. These often bear the name of channelizer posts, guide posts or delineator paddles. Delineator paddles usually offer the ability to include a message in the form of a label, which can often be customized based on the specific application.
Semi-Permanent Signpost Installations Offer Durability and Cost Savings
Parking lots with heavier traffic patterns often require a more durable bollard/signpost solution, as the post is impacted more often by vehicles. Many times, these heavily traversed lots are those reserved for physicians, nurses, and other staff who are coming and going in the dark of night or other adverse conditions. As mentioned previously with the portable signpost solutions, the ability for the bollard/post to flex is a desirable benefit. This feature protects the vehicle and minimizes damage to the sign, post, and lot itself.
Historically, core-drilled bollards with signposts have had their place in protecting the entryway to a facility, HVAC equipment, etc. However, because they do not flex, they are not the ideal solution for parking space signage, as damage can be caused to both the vehicle and the parking lot upon impact. New technology is replacing this type of post with safer, more durable alternatives.
When a patient’s vehicle is involved in a collision with a core-drilled bollard, they most likely will no longer be entering your facility that day and receiving care, due to distress caused by the accident. A costly repair may also be required for the customer’s vehicle, and possible litigation could result. In addition, damage to the parking lot can be costly. An average core-drilled bollard repair or replacement can easily cost up to $1,250 for each occurrence. This does not include the issue of the customer’s vehicle repair costs.
Fortunately, there are flexible heavy-duty signpost and bollard solutions on the market that are more cost effective and can be easily installed in 30 minutes or less – by simply using a hammer-drill and a wrench. This avoids the expense of heavy equipment and several hours of labor, the mixing of concrete, and oftentimes cordoning off the parking lot.
Opportunities for Branding
A hospital’s parking lot has also been playing an increasingly larger role in influencing the patient’s experience and perception of that organization’s brand image. As more customers opt for curbside care and are no longer entering the facility itself, the opportunities to communicate with, or influence the customer continue to diminish.
This creates a necessity for delivering on the brand image where the patient will be spending their time – that is, waiting in his or her vehicle while temporarily parked in a reserved space. Recent innovations have created opportunities for branding. Parking lot bollards can be customized to match virtually any color, and corporate logos can be added. This serves to both provide a consistent image and to differentiate from the competition. Bollard and signpost height, number of sign brackets (and number of signs per post) can also be specified, providing opportunities for a variety of parking lot signage applications.
Maintaining ADA Compliance
All facilities, both private and public, are required by law to follow federal ADA guidelines. ADA access signs need to be posted at properly designated accessible parking spaces. These handicap accessible parking spaces must be identified by signs that include the International Symbol of Accessibility. Signs at van accessible spaces must include the additional phrase, “van accessible.” Federal specifications for ADA handicap signage also require that the bottom edge of the sign must be more than 5 feet from the ground. In addition, the size of the handicap parking sign must not be smaller than 12” x 18”.
While design specifications for handicap parking signs is consistent at the federal level, requirements for ADA signage can vary by state. Each individual state may also have supplemental sign requirements. Supplemental ADA parking signs are typically placed under the larger handicapped reserved parking signs. Because it is important to maintain ADA compliance, the appropriate signpost should be at least 8’ feet in height for high-visibility. The base of the signpost must be able to support the size and weight of an ADA sign, and multiple signs if required.
Hospital and other healthcare facility parking lots have become much more chaotic with the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting move toward a curbside model of care and virtual waiting rooms. However, this also presents an opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves from the competition by making life easier and less stressful for patients, staff, and the many other types of visitors creating 24/7 traffic congestion in parking lots.
Flexible signpost solutions are recommended for busy healthcare parking spaces, whether for wayfinding, curbside care, ADA, or other types of reserved spaces. This recommendation is based on their durability, ease of installation, increased safety, cost savings, and capabilities for organizational branding.
Contact FlexPost® today to discuss your healthcare facility parking lot project.